Snow and Avalanche Center 2010 Avalanche News

Suspected Arcadia arsonist killed by avalanche in France
Saturday Feb. 6th | 3:53 p.m. | KPCC Wire Services

A man suspected of firebombing 130 luxury SUVs in Southern California was living as an international fugitive when he was struck and killed by an avalanche in the France the day after Christmas, it was reported today.

Caltech graduate Tyler Johnson, 30, was hiking alone in the Corsican mountains when he was killed in December, the Pasadena Star-News reported.

The U.S. attorney general's office confirmed that the accident victim was the same person captured by surveillance cameras spray-painting environmental slogans on cars at an Arcadia Mercedes-Benz dealership in 2003 died Dec. 26 after being struck by an avalanche while hiking in France, it was reported today.

Johnson graduated from Caltech with a bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics in 2003.

Surveillance cameras captured men identified by the FBI as Johnson and William "Billy'' Cottrell spray-painting environmental slogans on cars at Rusnak Mercedes in Arcadia in 2003. The Star-News reported they were also suspected of vandalizing cars at dealerships in Arcadia, West Covina, Duarte and Monrovia.

Authorities believe that Johnson and Michie Oe, members of the militant environmentalist group Earth Liberation Front, fled the country after the attacks. Cottrell was convicted in 2004 on seven counts of arson and one count of conspiracy in the vandalizing and firebombing of more than 130 vehicles. He was sentenced to eight years, four months in prison.

Johnson's father, James Johnson, told the Star-News that the federal prosecutors wanted his son to serve 35 years in prison. The father told the newspaper that his son had been a fugitive for the past six years, and only kept in touch through a legal representative.

Johnson's father told the Star-News that his son's body was found by a French rescue team and the consulate in France notified his family.

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