Statement on Recommendation for Parole of Arsonist Convicted in Blaze That Killed LAFD Firefighter

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) Chief Ralph Terrazas expressed disappointment after convicted arsonist Mario Catanio was granted parole by the California Board of Parole Hearings.

Catanio was convicted of starting a fire at a North Hollywood restaurant on January 28, 1981, that claimed the life of LAFD Apparatus Operator Thomas Taylor. The 34-year-old Taylor 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, including at a Sept. 29 hearing. The Governor now has 120 days to approve or deny the 76-year-old Catanio’s parole.

“We will always object to Catanio’s release as our commitment to ensuring justice will never waiver,” said Chief Terrazas. “Despite what Sacramento may do, the passage of time will not dim the memory of our fallen firefighter.”

LAFD Chief Deputy Joseph Castro traveled to Sacramento Sept. 29 with a delegation from the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City (UFLAC) Local 112 to testify against Catanio’s release. He presented the Parole Board with a letter from Mayor Eric Garcetti, a resolution from the L.A. City Council and a petition signed by active duty and retired LAFD members urging the board to reject granting Catanio parole. Chief Castro was a 22-year-old firefighter who in 1981 helped remove Taylor’s body from the collapsed building.

UFLAC President Capt. Frank Lima said, “Since the tragic passing in 1981 of LAFD firefighter Thomas Taylor, UFLAC has worked tirelessly to keep his murderer behind bars. Unfortunately, the California Board of Parole Hearings made a devastating decision in voting to release Mario Catanio on parole. While a convicted arsonist will soon be sent home to spend time with his family, Thomas Taylor’s family will never have the same opportunity.” 

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