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Deputy who arrested arson suspect shuns limelight

January 3, 2012 |  7:55 pm


A crowd of reporters huddled outside the West Hollywood station of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday evening hoping to answer one question: Who is Shervin Lalezary?

Ever since early Monday morning, when the volunteer deputy was vaulted into the limelight after nabbing the suspect in more than 50 fires, the attorney-by-day has insisted on a low-profile.
Before he approached the cameras Tuesday, the gaggle of waiting reporters wondered aloud about the 30-year-old. Where’s he from, asked one. What kind of attorney is he, asked another. Is he single, mused a third.

But anyone hoping the square-jawed Lalezary would talk about himself left deeply disappointed. He thanked his fellow reserve deputies, the Sheriff’s Department and the county’s residents, gave a few polite but brief responses and, just as abruptly, returned to the line of fellow volunteers standing proudly behind him. He wouldn’t even tell the reporter from the local Beverly Hills newspaper if he lived in Beverly Hills.

And he only offered a brief glimpse into the arrest the city’s been buzzing about: As firefighters were frantically responding to 11 new arson calls early Monday, Lalezary was on his normal patrol, driving down Sunset Boulevard near Fairfax Avenue.

He noticed a minivan that looked like the one the alleged arsonist was believed to be driving. With his radio jammed, unable to easily call for back-up, Lalezary pulled up alone and beamed his flash light into the minivan. He immediately thought the driver was a match to the description of a “person of interest” in the fires: A white male adult, short pony tail, receding hairline.

“That was a big key,” Lalezary said.

He flashed his patrol lights. Luckily, LAPD officers in a nearby patrol unit happened to notice, pulled up and covered him from behind while he made the arrest.

“I just felt a big sense of relief,” said Lalezary, who worked four out of five shifts that week, assisting deputies in their hunt.

Law enforcement sources told The Times that officers found “fire-setting materials” inside the minivan.

Desperate for more, reporters at the news conference Tuesday pleaded with Lalezary to talk about his emotions (no comment), the suspect information he was working with (he demurred) and whether he felt like a hero (no response). Flanked by his beaming little brother, also a sheriff’s reserve, Lalezary walked back into the station not to return again.

“He doesn’t want to put it on himself. He wants to be part of a team. Personally, I don’t get it,” joked one sheriff’s official.

Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said that even Sheriff Lee Baca hoped Lalezary would give himself some more credit, but failed. “The sheriff said put me on the phone with him,” Whitmore said. “But when he sits in front of me and says, 'I won’t want to talk about it,' what are you going to do?”

When Baca met Lalezary on Monday to congratulate him, the volunteer reserve was even slow to mention that his parents were at the event, seemingly embarrassed about extending the praise the sheriff was lavishing on him.

“I think it has something to do with his upbringing,” Whitmore said of the reserve, who’s paid $1 a year.

One Iranian American reporter there Tuesday even mused about coaxing the Tehran-born Lalezary to open up over an authentic homemade rice dish.

No word yet from Lalezary. And it’s likely to stay that way.


FULL COVERAGE: Southland fires

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Ruin, wreckage at Jim Morrison's former home

--Robert Faturechi in West Hollywood

Photo: L. A. County Sheriff Reserve Deputy Shervin Lalezary, center, leaves a news conference at the West Hollywood police station with his brother Shawn Lalezary, far left. Credit: Anne Cusack/ Los Angeles Times