Police suspect arson in string of Payette crimes

This photo shows the interior of the A&W restaurant, in Payette, on Monday after an arson fire dealt significant smoke and soot damage to the dining area.

PAYETTE — One restaurant and a pickup truck have been significantly damaged, and a Payette residence was partially burned early Monday morning in a string of what is believed to be arson cases.

Between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m., four locations were victims to what Payette Police believe to be arson activity, said Mark Clark, Payette Police Chief.

Police first responded to the 1800 block of Seventh Avenue North at 12:23 a.m., where a Payette resident reported that a male suspect was seen pouring gasoline on the exterior of their home and on a trailer that was under an awning. A fire did start, but was later extinguished without any significant damage to the home or trailer.

According to Clark, when the resident confronted the male suspect, he bolted, yelling out into the open “Run away.” This led police to believe there was more than one suspect at the first scene. The unidentified person who was seen running away from the house was reported to be about 190 pounds and between 5 feet 8 inches tall and 5 feet 10 inches tall, Clark said.

The second case happened at about 12:48 a.m., Clark said, when a brick was thrown through one of the windows of the Payette A&W restaurant at 340 S. Main St. An accelerant of some kind was then thrown through the hole in the glass.

Passerby Dan Tuttle, of Weiser, not only called police when he noticed the fire, he helped put out the fire by the time the Payette Fire Department had arrived, Clark said.

Payette Fire Chief Steve Castenada said that by the time firefighters arrived at the restaurant, Tuttle had connected a garden hose to the front of the building and was fighting the fire through the hole where the brick was thrown through.

According to store manager Dawn Kingrey, the interior of the restaurant has soot and smoke damage. At the very least, the booths, tables, drive-thru phone and paint will need to be replaced, along with any open cups.

As A&W waits for insurance and disaster professionals to evaluate and estimate the cost of damages, Kingrey said, the goal for reopening is May 13 in time for Apple Blossom.

“Why would someone want to take away a business in the community?” Kingrey asked hours later at the scene of the crime.

What is believed by police to be a third arson attempt occurred at 2:50 a.m. at Healthcare With Heart at 823 Center Ave. As with A&W, it was reported that a brick was thrown through one of the family health center’s windows.

No fire was reported at the scene.

A fourth case of possible arson happened at about 5 a.m. when a passing Payette patrol officer noticed smoke and flames drifting up from a truck at the 1200 block of Second Avenue South, Clark said.

By the time the fire department had responded, the truck was fully engulfed, Clark said.

The Payette Police Department is viewing the four cases as connected based on motive and evidence on scene, the police chief said.

Payette Fire Chief Steve Castenada hasn’t made any official report on the specific cause of each fire, however, he did note that the Idaho fire marshall has visited and analyzed each scene and will spend the next two weeks making his report.

No suspects have been identified at this time as Payette Police continue gathering evidence and canvassing neighborhoods, Clark said.

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