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High School Student Arrested for Lighting Teacher on Fire

KNOXVILLE - Police arrested a 15-year-old West High School student on Monday morning for assaulting a teacher after he used a lighter to ignite her hair and shirt. According to witnesses, when the teacher, 23-year-old Gabriela Penalba (pictured above) turned her back to the class, a male student lit her hair and shirt on fire. 

While other students rushed to help put out the flames, the suspect reportedly tossed the lighter out the window. School resource officers responded around 10:45 a.m at which point the suspect fled, but was quickly caught after a brief chase on foot. 

The suspect admitted to the assault during a subsequent police interview. He was charged with aggravated assault and evading arrest, and then taken to a juvenile detention facility.

The fire was put out before the teacher received burns to her skin. 


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