Arson suspected in North Tahoe restaurant fire; 3 arrested (updated)
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — One adult male and two juveniles have been arrested on suspicion of arson in connection with a Wednesday evening Lake Tahoe restaurant fire.
Ramon Mendoza Valdez, 20, of Incline Village was booked into Washoe County Jail Thursday evening, said Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Bob Harmon.
Valdez faces six charges — 2 counts of first-degree arson; 1 count of third-degree arson; 2 counts of graffiti and/or defacing property; and 1 count of contributing to the delinquency and/or negligence of a minor.
All three arson charges are felonies. Valdez’s bail is set at $50,500.
Two juveniles — a male, 11, and female, 15 — also were arrested Thursday evening in connection with the blaze, Harmon said. It’s unclear as of this writing if they face charges.
The North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District responded at about 7:50 p.m. Wednesday to the fire at the old La Casona Restaurant, located on the west side of the Raley’s shopping center at 930 Tahoe Blvd.
No one was hurt, and fire damage was minimal, according to NLTFPD.
There was evidence of arson at the scene, and a joint WCSO and NLTFPD investigation led officials to Valdez, Harmon said.
It’s suspected Valdez and the two juveniles had vandalized the restaurant prior to Wednesday with graffiti, Harmon said.
The restaurant is owned by Incline resident John Cheney, who said an estimate on damage is unknown; an insurance company is expected to review it this weekend.
“It’s not as bad as it could have been, our firefighters did a great job getting it out,” Cheney said Friday. “There was some damage from flames, and obviously some smoke damage … in the entrance area, and it spread up into the bar, into the ceiling of the bar. It was mainly contained to the walls and ceiling.”
Cheney said the unit had been “tagged” with graffiti several times over the past few weeks.
“(Someone) tagged it pretty good Tuesday night … and (someone) tagged it up again Wednesday … before the fire,” he said.
Cheney, who also owns Big Water Grille near Diamond Peak, had been remodeling the restaurant since April and planned to open it soon under the name “Gus’ Open Pit Barbecue.”
Depending on damage, the restaurant’s opening will be delayed until at least after Labor Day, he said.
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Authorities have identified a man as a person of interest in one Nevada City homicide, and have also released the name of a victim in an unrelated homicide investigation.