Orlando Police have arrested a suspect in the arson fire of the sandwich restaurant Beefy King.
John Cairl Huff III, 36, of Mount Dora, was taken into custody Tuesday night and is being held in Orange County jail. Bond has been set at $3,500.
Huff was apprehended at Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar, which sits across a side street from Beefy King on Bumby Avenue, after staff at the coffee bar called police to report an unruly trespasser. According to a police report, one of Drunken Monkey’s employees reported seeing Huff Monday night behind Beefy King, which is not open evenings, holding lighters. Not literally a smoking gun, but close.
Larry Hardin, co-owner of the business, said Wednesday that Huff “had been hanging around our place for several weeks,” and that he had asked him to leave several times because he was making people feel uncomfortable. Hardin also said that Huff seemed to be high or intoxicated. On Monday night, before the fire, Hardin said he told staff to let him know if Huff was still hanging around when the coffee bar closed for the night and he would call police. Instead, Huff was seen lying on the sidewalk in front of the business.
“When I heard about the fire he was the first person I thought of,” Hardin said.
Huff was back at Drunken Monkey Tuesday evening, so Hardin called police to report his as a trespasser and to suggest that he might have had something to do with the fire at Beefy King. The responding officer contacted an investigator with Orlando Fire Department to inquire about surveillance footage. (Beefy King had a camera in the back of the building where the fire was started but because the camera was destroyed by the blaze the images weren’t immediately available.) The OFD Arson and Bomb Squad agent relayed photos to the arresting officer, Adam Rideaux. Based on the images, Rideaux arrested Huff.
According to the arrest affidavit, Huff admitted to Rideaux that he set the fire.
Orlando Fire Department released a surveillance photo that shows a man who appears to be Huff lighting a fire in the back of Beefy King. The man in the photo is standing next to a stack of plastic bread racks that Beefy King owner Roland Smith said were completely melted by the fire.
The fire at the 51 year old sandwich shop occurred in the early hours of Tuesday and was confined mainly to the exterior. OFD responded quickly to a 911 call, possibly from a neighbor behind the restaurant, and damage was minimal. However, firefighters had to break through the front door and pull ceiling tiles down to check that the fire hadn’t spread inside. There was some water intrusion, as well, but damage was minimal enough that the owners hope to be back serving their popular beef sandwiches by Monday.
In the video below, Smith talks about getting the call telling him his restaurant was on fire.