Police say teacher charged with arson tried to cover up small fire with a second fire

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Michael Shannon

Michael Shannon

GRAHAM, N.C. -- Police say a moment of panic caused a Graham drama teacher to start a fire at a high school auditorium last Wednesday.

“It was not an accidental fire,” said Graham police Capt. Steve McGilvray. “It was intentionally set.”

Michael Shannon, 28, is being charged with starting a fire in the school auditorium on February 19.

He is also being charged with obstruction of justice for telling his students to lie about what happened, according to police.
Shannon was arrested Monday night in Charlotte and released Tuesday morning on a $25,000 bond.

Investigators say it all started from a small fire that broke out backstage during a rehearsal but was quickly put out.


“He panicked because now the alarm is going off,” McGilvray said.

That’s when investigators say the teacher used linens and an accelerant to start a second fire.

Police say school surveillance video show that Shannon wasn’t in a rush to leave the auditorium when the fire started.

“If there’s a fire and the fire is in here, I’m going out that door,” McGilvray said. “I’m not making sure that other things are in place before I leave.”

Shannon is now suspended with pay for something his students say he didn’t do.

“That’s a bunch of crap,” said senior Autumn Horner. “Mr. Shannon would never do that, that’s his home. He spends more time at that theater than he does at his home.”
Horner started a Facebook page called Friends of the Theatre Unite along with a Twitter hash tag “Save Shannon.”

It’s a cause even former students have come back to Graham to support.

“He’s like a father figure to me,” said Ericka Routh who graduated from the school in 2010. “I can call him at any time. If there was something wrong, he would be there.”

“This is such an amazing teacher, and he doesn’t deserve any of this.”


  • Such a shame

    This doesn’t sound right at ALL. If he isn’t on video committing a crime, what evidence could they have? I think he is being framed.

  • Tim

    Until this guy admits setting a fire, he is innocent! And what gets me even more in question is this – The video will not be released, police said. Why the flip not? If he is guilty and you have proof, show the video!

  • rebecca

    They should drug test Mr. Shannon & the students involved. I would bet he was covering up a fire caused by a burning joint falling on the floor. Why else would he panic and tell the students to lie?

    • Anny

      He isn’t that type of person and for the fact for you to bring that up is insane. He is a role model to all his students. Former and current. He has Helped so many people. Also to even be in any after school activity at Graham you have to go through a random drug test. Please inform yourself
      About my former high school and teacher.

  • Jhodge

    Look here’s the thing that man is really important to a LOT of people including me and he’s a smart man. He wouldn’t burn basically HIS theater and they need to drop those felonys cause the fire Marshall has always been out to get him and everyone at that school who has meet him trusts him more than the admin there. I know I do. That man is one of the last bits of soul that school has left. If he can’t teach anymore than abss is messing up big time that’s one the greatest teacher they have ever had. Peroid.

      • former coworker

        “Out to get him” is probably an exaggeration. With everything a theater department has to store, it can be difficult to meet fire code requirements when the school building doesn’t have appropriate storage spaces, especially when the fire marshall shows up midproduction. Also, the theater classroom for no apparent reason had an outside door. If they had props or anything blocking the door (that they weren’t allowed to use), he could get cited for that as well.

    • dfinch

      The Fire Marshall will have nothing to do with this. When a fire is started with an accelerant it’s an automatic felony. It then takes it out of the hands of local investigators. The insurance company will have their own investigators. The first fire will explain a lot about why that happened and no one has those answers.

      • chucky1992

        I would not agree with you on that. A fire marshal will often be involved in fire investigations and normally are the ones who decide if they will take out charges especially with smaller fire departments.

  • Tim

    Obviously they do not have to show the video, but if they are charging this man with a crime and trashing his name and photo all over the news, do we not think as humans to show proof? I mean come on now, this guy may or may nto be guilty and by reading through posts, he has more support than our Gov’t at this point. So why not end the endless support by posting the video and showing the guilty verdict before the trial?

  • seriously

    Dear firestarter,
    Have whatever opinion you want about someone accused a crime. Please do not, however, accuse strangers on the internet of having sexual relationships with their teachers. You crossed a line. It is hurtful and it is unproductive.
    Adults everywhere

  • FaithC

    Who stats a second fire to cover up the first? He knew that the fire department and police would be there due to the alarm from the original fire. So what did he feel he had o cover up? What were these students doing in the school at 10pm?

    • chucky1992

      That is where you are wrong. People have every right to comment or judge if they want to. Personally I prefer to make up my mind after the facts are out. Not everyone is that way though. That is the wonderful thing about freedom of speech. :)

  • Spoon McGillicuttie

    Funny how these say wait hear his side…….yet you know not what he said to the police and what’s on that video but here’s a hint. (
    Police say school surveillance video show that Shannon wasn’t in a rush to leave the auditorium when the fire started.) then yu have eye witnesses, boy o boy.

    • Anny

      Those fire alarms would always go off for no reason. Anyone who has ever been there before knows that. My question is why someone had to call the fire fighters and why didn’t the alarms alert the fire fighters. Aren’t those things suppose to be connected.

      • dfinch

        The smoke detectors and alarms are connected to the 911 services. The smoke detectors trigger the alarms which then automatically relays to the 911 emergency services.

  • B

    So, was the first fire accidental or did he set both fires? If the first fire was extinguished and the fire alarm is activated then why set another fire? How stupid is that to set a fire and then hide the evidence by setting a second fire. That’s beyond stupid.

    • chucky1992

      I’m not justifying it… don’t get me wrong. I do know (we all probably know) people who loose their mind and all control when an emergency happens. I know that does not explain his way of thinking (if he did it, he hasn’t been convicted) but people don’t do what makes sense if they are in panic mode.

  • ZombieKiller

    We send our kids to school to learn. This turd’s job isn’t to be an arsonist nor a “father figure”. That’s when it gets creepy and you end up with molested students and fires in the school.

  • Adam Z.

    I am truly amazed at all the hateful things being said in the comments on this story. Some of you people disgust me. Nobody here knows all the facts. Yeah, I agree that it looks like something fishy was going on, but let’s withhold judgement until more information is released.

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