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LA arson suspect's captor patrols for $1 a year
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The reserve sheriff's deputy who captured a man suspected of being the city's most dangerous arsonist is a volunteer who earns $1 a year and only recently qualified to patrol alone, authorities said Tuesday.
Shervin Lalezary, a 30-year-old Beverly Hills real estate attorney, was patrolling at 3 a.m. Monday — three hours after the official end of his 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift — when he pulled over a Dodge van in Hollywood.
He and hundreds of other law enforcement officers had been hunting nonstop for the arsonist, and the van matched one that investigators were seeking.
"As soon as he saw the van, he notified the entire network," Los Angeles County sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said. "Immediately he had backup ... and two (Los Angeles police) officers were right behind him."
The driver, Harry Burkhart, was arrested on suspicion of setting more than 50 fires since last week, burning cars in apartment buildings in Hollywood and nearby areas.
Lalezary helped make the collar on what was his third solo patrol shift.
"I can tell you this is a lot more exciting than my day job," Lalezary said at a news conference after the arrest.
Lalezary declined to speak further to The Associated Press by phone on Tuesday, referring questions to the Sheriff's Department.
"He believes in the community service aspects of the reserve deputy," Whitmore said. "This is part of the job for him and he doesn't want to talk about himself because he believes he's part and parcel of a larger effort."
Lalezary was born in Tehran and moved with his family to America about 25 years ago.
He has a law degree from the University of Southern California and was admitted to the California bar in 2008.
He became interested in law enforcement in college, said his 35-year-old brother, Dr. Arash Lalezary.
"He was fascinated by it," Arash Lalezary said. "I've always been worried about him ... Every time he goes out I say, 'be careful, be careful.'"
Lalezary became a reserve deputy in 2007 and after training was certified as a Level 3 reservist, allowing him to perform traffic duties and work with sworn deputies, Whitmore said.
Several weeks of additional training made him a Level 2 reservist who could ride along with a deputy on patrol. In December, he became a Level 1 and was permitted to patrol alone.
Equipped with a department-issued gun and patrol car, Lalezary is attached to the West Hollywood sheriff's station and works at least 20 hours a month, Whitmore said.
Another brother, Shawn, also is a reserve deputy.
Despite the acclaim, Lalezary has no plans to take further training and become a sworn deputy, Whitmore said.
Sheriff Lee Baca has said Lalezary's reserve status takes nothing away from his achievement.
"This is one of the most significant arrests anyone can make — regular or reserve," the sheriff said Monday. "And this will follow him for the rest of his life."