Escondido teacher thanked for help capturing arsonist

Posted at 3:47 PM, May 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-03 22:29:34-04

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) - A North County teacher was recognized by local police for her part in the capture of a suspected arsonist.

Juel Copeland, a history teacher at Orange Glen High School, was commended by the Escondido Police Department at the school.

Lieutenant Scott Waters and Sergeant Mike Graesser of EPD, as well as Dr. Karen Rizzi, Escondido Union High School District assistant superintendent, and Stacey Adame, OGHS principal, recognized Copeland for her actions leading to the arsonist's capture.

Officers said, "without her help, they would have not captured the individual," and "her description of the individual was so detailed it made locating the person much easier."

The suspect, identified as James Nihart, was arrested at Juniper Street and Eldorado Drive on Tuesday and charged with three counts of arson, according to Escondido Police Lt. Justin Murphy.

Nihart is accused of setting three fires on Tuesday, between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. The first fire was set in the 3300 block of East Valley Parkway, the second was set in the area of Kaile Lane and Oakwood Creek Way, and the third was set at Bear Valley Parkway and San Pasqual Valley Road.

Lt. Murphy said Copeland spotted Nihart near the scene of the third fire and gave officers a detailed suspect description, allowing them to easily swoop in and locate Nihart.