Wednesday, August 1, 2012
A California university professor who was arrested on arson charges wrote in an email that he was thinking of getting a dozen machine guns and shooting at least 200 students at his late son's high school, according to court papers obtained Wednesday.
UC Irvine pharmaceutical sciences professor Rainer Reinscheid was upset after his teenage son hanged himself in an Irvine park in March after the boy had been disciplined by the assistant principal at University High School, prosecutors said.
Copies of emails were filed in Orange County Superior Court and obtained by The Associated Press.
In the messages that prosecutors say Reinscheid sent to himself and to his wife, he wrote how he wanted to shoot school administrators before killing himself. Authorities found no evidence that he tried to carry out the alleged plot.
Prosecutors filed the emails to get the 48-year-old professor held without bail after he was charged with setting a series of small fires at the school, the assistant principal's home and the park where his son died.
Prosecutors, who believe Reinscheid acted alone in setting the fires, could not immediately say whether authorities had thwarted an attack on a public high school or uncovered the ramblings of a man over email.
In an email to himself in April, while he was on medication and drinking his second bottle of wine, Reinscheid said he had dreams of burning down the school and killing himself in the same place where his son died. He said he was thinking about shooting administrators and sexually assaulting at least one of them.
"Then I will shoot at least 200 students before killing myself," he wrote, adding the police would not catch him. "It will be all myself and me."
Reinscheid also wrote in a message to his wife that he had made plans and would find the school's assistant principal and make him cry and beg before hanging him, just as his son hanged himself. "I will find this vice principal and find out where he lives, then I will wait for him and kill him," he wrote.
He told his wife he loved her and was sorry if he disappointed her, and asked her to take care of her two children as a single mother.
Reinscheid appeared in a jailhouse courtroom in Santa Ana briefly Tuesday afternoon wearing an orange jail jumpsuit. His arraignment was postponed until Aug. 8 and he was ordered held without bail.
Television cameras clustered in the viewing area to cover the proceedings. Defense attorney Ron Cordova was not immediately available after the hearing, but told the judge in court that he didn't want his client to "suffer from a media circus."
Phone messages left for Cordova and at a home number listed in Reinscheid's name were not immediately returned.
Prosecutors have charged Reinscheid with five counts of arson and one count of attempted arson for the small fires, which caused little damage. They say he lit objects ranging from newspapers to brush to a plastic porch chair at the park where his son hanged himself in March, the high school and the home of the assistant principal.
"They appear directly related to feelings of anger that he had over the treatment of his son, which he believes led to his son's killing himself," Orange County Deputy District Attorney Andrew Katz said Tuesday.
Reinscheid is also charged with a misdemeanor account of resisting or obstructing a police officer.
The case dates back to March when Reinscheid's 14-year-old son was disciplined for a theft in the student store and was punished with trash pick-up duties at lunch, said Ian Hanigan, a spokesman for the Irvine Unified School District.
"It was a relatively minor offense that didn't rise to suspension or expulsion," Hanigan said.
The teen hanged himself shortly thereafter at the park adjacent to the high school. Reinscheid was arrested at the park on July 24 when police, who had stepped up patrols because of a series of fires, said they saw him trying to ignite another one.
He posted $50,000 bail and was released.
Later in the week, detectives were able to link Reinscheid to the fires set earlier in the month and found the emails on his cellphone that detailed his plan to attack the school. On Friday night, Reinscheid was arrested again.
Irvine police Lt. Julia Engen said police discovered no evidence that Reinscheid made preparations or acted on his plans to shoot people, but the emails alarmed authorities.
"We have to take him seriously. Maybe if one thing was isolated, but with the escalating seriousness of what we discovered, we have to assume that that's what he wants to happen and that's what the concern is," Engen said.
Prosecutors said they feared that if he wasn't jailed he might flee to Germany, where he is a citizen.
If convicted, Reinscheid could face nearly 13 years in prison.
In the court papers, police said Reinscheid's wife said he had been suffering from deep depression since his son's death.
After the boy's suicide, University High School worked with police to thoroughly investigate rumors that Reinscheid's son had been bullied and found nothing, Engen said. The district confirmed there was no evidence of bullying. "We take any bullying allegation very seriously so even the faintest whisper would set in motion an inquiry," Hanigan said. "We left no stone unturned."
Irvine Unified School District Superintendent Terry Walker expressed gratitude to the city's police department for making the arrest. He said district officials would cooperate in any way they could.
"These are extremely disturbing allegations, particularly as they involve the potential safety of both students and employees," Walker said in a statement.
Reinscheid has been at UC Irvine for about a dozen years, said university spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon. The campus on Tuesday said it was fully cooperating with authorities.
According to UC Irvine's website, Reinscheid's research included studying molecular pharmacology and psychiatric disorders, including studies of schizophrenia, stress, emotional behavior and sleep.
Neighbors say Reinscheid was a comparative newcomer to the tree-lined cul-de-sac of cookie-cutter houses where a number of UC Irvine faculty members, current and retired, live within walking distance of campus.