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Teenage arson suspect says he did not threaten school administrators

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An 18-year-old expelled Liberty Technology Magnet High School student said Thursday that he can’t believe he is being charged in the Jan.16 fire in the boys’ locker room and threatening school administrators.

Malik Batchelor, who is facing one count of aggravated arson and three counts of harassment, was arraigned in Jackson City Court, via video link, Thursday morning.

His bond was set at $150,000 and his preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 6.

During Batchelor’s arraignment, Jackson City Court Judge Blake Anderson read three affidavits of complaint against him.

The first affidavit stated that on Jan. 16, around 7:03 p.m., the Jackson Fire Department and the Jackson Police Department responded to a fire in the boys’ locker room inside the school, located at 3470 Ridgecrest Road Extended. The gym, which is near the locker room, was occupied at the time by the Liberty High School basketball team, which was practicing.

The affidavit said Head Coach Terrell Green and two team mangers, Jordan Wilbourn and Eric White, helped fight the fire until the fire department arrived. White had to be transported to an emergency room at a local hospital for smoke inhalation.

Jackson Fire Deputy Chief David Dillingham determined the fire was set deliberately. The affidavit said a paper towel dispenser was set on fire by unknown means.
The police department was contacted by the fire officials for further investigation into the incident.

The next day, on Jan. 17, a man, claiming responsibility for starting the fire, called the school. In a phone message received by the principal, Dr. June Murry, the man said, “I could have burned the whole school down.”

According to the second affidavit, on that same day, at 11:11 a.m., Murry received a phone message, on her office line, in which the caller threatened to kill her assistant principals.

The caller said, “You thought you had a riot at your school? You thought you had a shooting at your school? I’m a kill bout your mother f*****’ assistant principals, especially Mr. (Wayne) Alexander with his b**** a**.”

The caller could have been referencing recent events at the school.

In October, a fight broke out among students who were leaving the school’s auditorium.

On. Jan. 9, a 17-year-old student was shot outside the school during dismissal. A 16-year-old male, who also attended Liberty, has been charged in the crime.

During the Jan. 17 call, the caller also spoke about Alexander’s disabled son, the affidavit said. The caller said in a message, “I be seeing him (Alexander) and his little boy by they self in that green truck. I know where they stay, ‘cept he think I don’t know.” Before ending the call, the caller made five gunshot sounds, as if he were emphasizing his words.

The next day, on Jan. 18, Alexander received a message from the same caller, the affidavit said. This time, the caller was laughing and making gunshot sounds.

Six days later, on Jan. 23, the man called the school again, but threatened a different school administrator.

According to the third affidavit, at 12:53 p.m., Murry’s secretary, Carmen Davenport, received a phone call from the caller. The man said, “Will you tell Mr. (Kenyon) Wright (a teacher at Liberty) I am going to kill his b**** a**?” Davenport immediately took down the information and told Murry.

Murry played Davenport an earlier recorded message and Davenport told Murry that it was the same voice she had received a call from.

Murry, Davenport and Alexander all recognized the caller’s voice in all of the calls to be Batchelor’s, the affidavits said. The school administrators also expressed concern and fear about Batchelor carrying out the threats.

Working with Liberty school officials, investigators identified Batchelor as the person who set the fire and made the threats, according to a news release from the Jackson Police Department. On Jan. 23, investigators signed an arrest warrant for Batchelor. Police had been searching for him since the signing of the warrant.

The release said Batchelor was arrested around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday on Daugherty Street, in Jackson, by the U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force and the Jackson Police Department's Street Crimes Unit.

Batchelor had previously been expelled from school for an unrelated matter, according to Liberty officials.

Batchelor is also facing a charge of disorderly conduct in an October 2013 case.

According to the affidavit in that case, Batchelor was involved in a fight while attending the school on Oct. 29.

The affidavit said as students exited the auditorium, a fight began. It said Batchelor became a participant in the fight among the students by throwing punches.

During his arraignment Thursday, Batchelor told the judge he had no other cases pending. But the prosecutor made the judge aware of the disorderly conduct case and also asked that Batchelor be given a forensic evaluation.

After the judge finished reading the affidavits, Batchelor said, “I can’t believe they would say I did this. I haven’t been in school since Oct. 29. I don’t even know the number to the school. I’m a senior.”

Anderson asked Batchelor if he had a job.

“I had a job, but I lost it,” Batchelor replied. “But I have an interview for this Friday for a job at O’Charley’s.”

Batchelor also told the judge that he has lived in Jackson all of his life.