Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph M. Terrazas on Wednesday testified at a parole hearing against the release of a convicted arsonist responsible for the death of LAFD Apparatus Operator Thomas G. Taylor.
Chief Terrazas was joined by Captain Frank Lima, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City (UFLAC) Local 112, and other members of the Department, at the parole hearing of Mario Catanio, who was convicted of starting a fire at a North Hollywood restaurant on January 28, 1981, that claimed the life of Apparatus Operator Thomas. The 34-year-old Thomas was married and had two young children at the time.
Catanio was sentenced to 25-years-to-life in prison in 1983 after he was found guilty of being paid $2,500 to burn down the restaurant in an insurance fraud scheme. Catanio has been eligible for parole since 2004 and the LAFD, its labor partners and local elected officials have consistently fought against his release.
Chief Terrazas on Wednesday presented the Parole Board with a petitioned signed by more than 1,200 active duty LAFD members arguing against Catanio’s release.
“We do not let the passage of time dim the memory of our fallen firefighter or our commitment to ensuring that justice continues to be served in the wake of such a heinous crime,” Chief Terrazas told the Board. “It takes very little effort to start a fire and, Catanio has shown no remorse, so there is nothing that says he is unwilling or incapable of doing it again.”
Chief Terrazas also stressed to the Board the serious nature of arson and that the LAFD takes every instance of the crime seriously. “The citizens of Los Angeles, and indeed the entire state of California, must understand that deliberately setting even what they think is the smallest of fires can have devastating consequences,” he added.
Captain Lima, President of UFLAC, told the Parole Board, “Because of Inmate Catanio’s crime, a department lost our brother, a father lost his son, a wife lost her husband, and two young children lost their father forever. Do not allow a convicted arsonist who committed murder to be granted parole. It’s simply not fair to so many people who have lost so much over the years. Keep Mario Catanio in prison.”
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