District attorney says nacho-eating bandit will likely face arson charge
A man suspected of breaking into an El Jebel restaurant and using the kitchen to make some nachos before stealing cash will likely face an arson charge over the incident, according to Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert.
“We’re still looking into that,” Hurlbert said, adding that it is more a question of the type of arson charge that will be filed rather than if it will be filed.
Investigators need to determine if the suspect, Khory Nathan Gagner, 21, of El Jebel posed a threat to people or just property through his actions, Hurlbert said. That will determine the severity of the arson charge.
Gagner allegedly broke into the Fine Line Bar and Grill in the early morning hours of Nov. 30. Eagle County Sheriff’s investigators believe he ripped surveillance cameras off the restaurant’s walls, then poured himself a pint of beer and prepared a snack.
In an earlier interview, Fine Line owner Ben Levy said it appeared that Gagner set four bags of tortilla chips on the stove while he was preparing the nachos. The bags caught on fire and triggered a fire suppression system that is common in commercial kitchens. The system sucked the oxygen out of the vicinity of the stove and oven and snuffed the flames.
Fine Line is located in the El Jebel Plaza, which includes second-floor apartments above the first-floor businesses. A fire at the shopping center could have catastrophic results.
Hurlbert said first-, second- and third-degree arson charges all require that the suspect intentionally started a fire with the intention to cause harm to people, damage to property, or both. That’s not believed to be the case in this incident, he said.
Fourth-degree arson involves a suspect “knowingly or recklessly” starting or attending to a fire. If a person is endangered, it’s a felony, Hurlbert said. If just property is threatened, the charge would be a misdemeanor.
After Gagner’s cooking went awry, investigators believe he broke into a safe and made off with cash. They won’t disclose the amount.
While the suspect took care to conceal his identity inside Fine Line, additional cameras on the outside of the El Jebel Plaza captured Gagner’s image. Members of the Crawford family, which owns the plaza, were reviewing the video from the cameras the following afternoon when they saw Gagner strolling by on a live camera feed. He was apprehended and held until police arrived.
So far the district attorney’s office has filed four felony charges and one misdemeanor against Gagner – second-degree burglary, theft, criminal mischief and violation of an outstanding bond condition. Gagner is allegedly facing multiple charges in a Pitkin County case that is yet to be resolved, according to the Eagle County District Attorney’s office. A condition of his bail in that case was to avoid further scrapes with the law. Gagner is also facing a misdemeanor theft charge for the incident at Fine Line.
In a separate action, Gagner was charged with possessing contraband. He was allegedly found with a white powdery substance, believed to be cocaine, when he was booked into Eagle County Jail.
Hurlbert said his office’s willingness to consider a plea bargain could be influenced by Gagner’s prior criminal history. In addition, his criminal history could result in the prosecutor seeking more jail time if Gagner is convicted.
Gagner has remained in jail this month on $15,000 bond for charges stemming from the Fine Line incident and on $15,000 for the contraband drug charge.
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