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.”