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Deputy who caught Hollywood arson suspect hailed as hero

By Lateef Mungin, CNN
updated 9:34 PM EST, Tue January 3, 2012
Reserve officer Shervin Lalezary arrested the Los Angeles arson suspect on Monday.
Reserve officer Shervin Lalezary arrested the Los Angeles arson suspect on Monday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Deputy felt "sense of relief" after making arrest
  • Shervin Lalezary is an Iranian-born lawyer who moonlights as a deputy
  • "This is a lot more exciting than my day job," Lalezary says
  • Reserve officers make just $1 a year

(CNN) -- A reserve sheriff's deputy who draws a salary of $1 a year was hailed as a hero for arresting the suspect in one of the worst arson sprees in Los Angeles history.

"I'll give him a raise of another dollar a year," Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca joked.

Shervin Lalezary, an Iranian-born lawyer who moonlights as a deputy, was among hundreds of law enforcement officers who spent four days looking for the person accused of setting a rash of car and building fires across the city.

Early Monday, Lalezary pulled over a van in Hollywood driven by a man who resembled the person seen on the surveillance video -- a suspect described as having a pony tail and a receding hairline. With the help of backup officers, Lalezary then arrested the driver, identified as Harry Burkhart.

Reporter: Arson suspect from Germany
Arrest in Los Angeles arson spree

Burkhart, a 24-year-old German national, was charged with one count of arson of an inhabited dwelling. He likely will face additional charges as the investigation moves forward, said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Burkhart lives less than a mile from the site of the traffic stop.

Suspect may have been upset about mother's arrest

A humble Lalezary told reporters Tuesday afternoon he felt "a big sense of relief" for the community after making the arrest.

"That whole shift we received so many suspicious person calls. You got the sense everyone on the city was on edge, rightfully so," he said.

The reserve deputy declined to give any details about his personal life and focused on the extensive weapons, field and academics training -- about 1,064 hours -- reserve deputies receive.

The public, Lalezary noted, expects the same professionalism from reservists as they do from full-time deputies.

"This is one of the most significant arrests anyone can make -- regular or reserve -- in the history of law enforcement, " Baca said. "And this will follow him for the rest of his life."

The deputy has a law practice in Beverly Hills, according to the State Bar of California, which admitted him in 2008. Lalezary attended the University of Southern California law school.

Lalezary on Monday appeared at a post-arrest news conference with his mother and his brothers. One brother is a doctor, the other a law student who is also a reserve deputy.

The younger Lalezary said he now has "big shoes to fill."

"I'll continue to strive to be as good of a brother and deputy as he is," said Shawn Lalezary.

For his part, Lalezary was quick to give credit to his fellow law enforcement officers.

"Thank you for coming in to work every day full time, putting your lives on the line every day full time," he said. "I look forward to coming back for my next shift with you guys."

CNN's Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.

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