Arroyo Grande arson suspect, 16, charged as adult

A 16-year-old boy accused of burning down a Boy Scout meeting hall in Arroyo Grande in May is being charged as an adult.

Brian Ray Bellrose of Arroyo Grande is scheduled to appear before Judge John Trice on Nov. 17 for an arraignment in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

Bellrose has been charged with 15 felony counts, including arson, burglary, grand theft and vandalism.

An alleged co-conspirator in the crime, Caleb Joseph Pelletier, has pleaded not guilty to nine felony charges, including arson and burglary.

Pelletier, 19, of Creston also is scheduled to appear in Trice’s court on Nov. 17 for a trial-setting conference. The meeting hall of Boy Scout Troup 413 had decades worth of memorabilia, camping equipment and other gear. Police arrested the two teens after the May 1 fire that took place about 4:20 a.m.

Investigators received a tip through San Luis Obispo County Crime Stoppers that led to the teens’ arrests. Police recovered some items belonging to the Scouts, including a backpack, a hatchet with “Troop 413” clearly written on it and a carabiner (a lightweight, metal snap-link used by rock climbers). Officers also located a butane lighter allegedly used during the crime. 

Neither teen has any connection to Troop 413, according to police, who had been investigating a motive. Police say they believe the 16-year-old was involved in vandalism at the same location on April 26, in which some small fires were started inside the hall. 

The hall had once served as a Japanese community center after it was constructed in the 1930s.

According to local historian Dan Krieger, the hall had a long history of gatherings by Japanese-Americans.

The center was used for Japanese language classes, Kendo (martial art sword-fighting based on traditional samurai swordsmanship), calligraphy, weddings, funerals and a variety of cultural events. About $10,000 worth of judo tatami mats were lost in the fire, according to Krieger.

The center was built 76 years ago with $15,000 donated by Mitsugi Fukuhara.