Four preteen boys will be charged with first-degree arson over a fire that destroyed a Oregon sports stadium on the National Register of Historic Places, authorities said Monday.
As weeping onlookers mournfully sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," Eugene's Civic Stadium — built in 1938 as part of the Depression-fighting Works Progress Administration — burned down June 29 just two months after a deal had been hammered out to give it new life as a facility for kids' sports.
Eugene police quickly zeroed in on five boys who had been seen near the stadium, and they were taken into custody last week.
Four of the boys, who weren't identified because they're all 10 to 12 years old, face a variety of other charges, including multiple counts of criminal mischief, burglary, reckless burning and reckless endangering, NBC station KMTR of Eugene and the Oregonian newspaper of Portland reported, quoting police and prosecutors.
"I don't know if you've talked to a 10- or 12-year-old boy recently. You don't get a whole lot of rational information out of them."
The fifth boy, whose parents tipped off police, won't be charged because he left the area before the fire started, police said.
Eugene police Detective Steve Williams told reporters the boys didn't appear to have intended to set the blaze, which they then fled from in panic on their bicycles.
"They were messing around, and they were lighting some debris on fire and just being kids," Williams said last week. But he said there's still much to be learned because interviews haven't yielded a great deal.
"I don't know if you've talked to a 10- or 12-year-old boy recently," he said. "You don't get a whole lot of rational information out of them."