A University of Rhode Island student was arrested on Feb. 13 after authorities found him responsible for disabling fire alarms and damaging other university property in Tucker Hall.

Thomas J. Vaughn, 18, of Wakefield was charged with one felony count of interference with a fire alarm and misdemeanor charges of larceny from a building, as well as malicious damage to URI property, according to a statement released by URI police.

According to the report, on Feb. 8 at 5:45 a.m., URI police were dispatched to Tucker Hall to investigate a burning smell on the third floor. Resident Assistants reported hearing a high pitched buzzing sound, and discovered fire alarm panels had been opened and wires had been torn out.

Police noted that several 12-volt batteries were also missing from inside the electrical panel boxes. Kingston firefighters also assisted at the scene and found that because of the vandalism, certain components were overheating, causing the burning smell.

In another area of the building, trash containers were knocked over and rolls of toilet paper were stuffed in a toilet in a nearby men’s bathroom. In the first floor lounge, furniture was overturned.

After gathering evidence at the scene, University Police were able to obtain a search warrant for a suspect’s room in Tucker Hall. A judge signed the warrant on Feb. 12, and police went to the room the following day.

Officers said that Vaughn was in the room and “made admissions regarding the crime.” After searching the room, police found eight of the stolen 12-volt batteries in the room along with wire, fuses and other items that had been taken from the fire panels and the surrounding area, according to the University Police statement.

Vaughn was arraigned at the URI Police Station and was released on $5,000 personal recognizance. His court date for formal arraignment will be March 2 in Washington County District Court. The incident was also referred to the Division of Student Affairs who could not be reached for comment before the Cigar’s print deadline.

Vaughn’s offenses are in direct violation of the URI student handbook and code of conduct, and his consequences through the university will be subject to compliance with the University Student Conduct System.

The university is currently assessing the monetary cost of damages and personnel costs regarding the incident, and have not yet released a total.   

  “Anytime someone purposely damages fire safety equipment, it puts all residents of the building in danger,” Police Maj. Michael Jagoda said in a statement. He credited the police officers for the successful investigation.

 

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Emma Gauthier
Emma is a senior journalism and English double major with a minor in political science from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She has worked for the Cigar since her first semester at URI as a staff reporter, then web editor, news editor and finally Editor in Chief. Emma also edits for the URI research magazine, Momentum, and hopes to find a career in political reporting upon her graduation in May.