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Friday, December 14 , 2018, 4:44 pm | A Few Clouds 62º


Officials Say Mum’s the Word Until Tea Fire Investigation is Complete

Officials are trying to determine how many of the 10 suspects were involved before releasing any names.

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office issued a news release Thursday saying it will not comment further on the ongoing Tea Fire investigation until it is complete.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department offered further explanations for what some people might perceive as a delay in revealing more information. A couple of weeks ago, the department announced that nine of the 10 suspects are students at Santa Barbara City College, who had held a bonfire.

“I understand it’s frustrating on the other side,” department spokesman Drew Sugars said. “But if everybody takes a step back and looks at the big picture, the important thing is that (the investigation) gets done correctly.”

Sugars said the department and the district attorney are trying to determine whether all 10 of the people were responsible for the fire. If not, there might not be a need to release all of the names, he said.

“If we release all 10 names out there,” he said, “once you ring that bell, you can’t unring it.”

Sugars added that there has been some misunderstanding about the interaction between the department and the district attorney. He said some untrue rumors have alleged that the department still hasn’t turned anything over. On the contrary, he said, the sheriff’s department handed over its report to the district attorney more than a week ago, but since then some more information trickled in.

Sugars said the sheriff’s department actually made the announcement about the 10 people a little earlier than it would have under normal circumstances. That, he said, was to quell any concern that there could be a rogue arsonist on the loose.

For its part, the district attorney’s office began investigating the case Monday. Sugars said the report is about as thick as a phone book.

The news release from the district attorney’s office said it will announce any decision regarding criminal charges after thorough review and analysis.

“In order to maintain the integrity of this complex and important fire investigation, the office will have no further comment until that time,” it said.

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