West High School teen arrested for trying to set teacher on fire

Knoxville West High School teen arrested for trying to set teacher on fire

Posted:
Gabriela Penalba (source: Knox County Schools) Gabriela Penalba (source: Knox County Schools)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A 15-year-old West High School student was arrested Monday morning for assaulting a teacher by using a lighter to ignite her hair and shirt.

School resource officers responded to a classroom around 10:45 a.m. According to the victim and witnesses, when teacher Gabriela Penalba, 23, turned her back to the classroom, a male student lit her hair and shirt on fire.

Other students quickly helped put out the fire.

The suspect then tossed the lighter out the window while Penalba was getting help.

The suspect fled from officers, but was quickly caught after a foot chase. He admitted to the assault during a police interview.

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

The 15-year-old suspect was charged with aggravated assault and evading arrest. He was taken to the juvenile detention facility.

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