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December 1, 2010
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Nacho-eating bandit nabbed for alleged burglary in El Jebel

EL JEBEL - An El Jebel man was arrested on multiple felony charges Tuesday after he allegedly broke into a sports bar early that morning, started a fire while cooking snacks, then nabbed a substantial amount of cash, the Eagle County Sheriff's Office said.

Khory Nathan Gagner, 21, allegedly ripped video surveillance cameras off the walls to conceal his identity while ransacking the Fine Line Bar and Grill in the El Jebel Plaza, according to the arrest report. But he was caught on cameras elsewhere in the complex while allegedly accessing the outside cooler of a nearby sushi restaurant, the report says.

The El Jebel Plaza is owned and managed by the Crawford family, longtime property owners in the area. Family members happened to be reviewing the video later Tuesday afternoon when they also saw, in real time, video surveillance showing the suspect. He was in the pedestrian tunnel under Highway 82 just a few yards from the plaza, according to Cleve Williams, a member of the extended Crawford family.

"It was just lucky," Williams said. "He was just wandering around."

One family member dashed across the highway to head off the suspect, but Gagner doubled back in the tunnel and popped out back at the plaza. He attempted to elude Williams without luck, thanks in part to Gagner's baggy clothing.

"His pants were clear down around his knees so he couldn't run real well," Williams said.

Williams and other family members detained the man until police arrived for the arrest at about 4 p.m.

Fine Line owner Ben Levy estimated Gagner gained access to the bar and restaurant between 12:15 and 1:15 a.m. Tuesday, when it was closed. The suspect was apparently hungry because he rammed his hands through plastic used to cover pizza toppings and other cooking ingredients, according to Levy.

"He was trying to make himself some nachos," Levy said. Onions, cheese, bacon and pepperoni were among the bandit's toppings of choice.

It was apparent that the pizza oven was used, and four bags of tortilla chips were placed on the stove. The bags caught on fire and triggered a suppression system that is standard in commercial kitchens, Levy said. The heat-sensoring system sucks the oxygen out of the area to extinguish flames. Fortunately it worked.

"He almost burned the place down," Levy said. That could have had tragic consequences because apartments are on the upper story of the mixed-use building, Levy noted.

An iPod was stolen from the bar, a safe was broken into, and a "large sum" of cash was taken, Levy said.

The arrest report says Gagner told a deputy he was hungry, so he entered the restaurant and cooked food. "Khory also admitted to tampering with the safe that was inside the restaurant," the report says.

He was allegedly found in possession of an iPod that Levy identified as his. Levy said he and other Fine Line employees didn't recognize Gagner as a customer.

Gagner was charged with second-degree burglary, theft, criminal mischief, second-degree criminal trespass - all class-four felonies - as well as violation of bail bonds and possession of contraband in a detention facility.

Sheriff's office spokeswoman Shannon Cordingly said Gagner was out on bond from Pitkin County and a condition was that he avoid further criminal activity. She was uncertain what infraction he was facing in Pitkin County.

Gagner was allegedly found with a white powdery substance when booked at the Eagle County jail. He is being held on a $17,000 bond.

Levy, who opened the bar and restaurant late this summer with his wife, were forced to close temporarily while dealing with the smell of smoke and other damage. They will be open by Friday at the latest, he said.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Dec 2, 2010 07:18AM Published Dec 1, 2010 11:59PM Copyright 2010 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.