In an apparent last-ditch attempt to make the "Dumbest Criminals of the Year" list, an El Jebel man allegedly broke into the Fine Line Bar & Grill early Tuesday morning, stole some cash and started a fire while trying to make himself nachos. He was caught that afternoon when he couldn't outrun his pursuers because his pants were sagging almost down to his knees.
According to the Aspen Times, Khory Nathan Gagner, 21, was arrested on multiple felony charges after he reportedly smashed surveillance cameras, damaged several parts of the restaurant and nearly burned it down. He also ruined a good day of skiing.
"It was about 8:45 in the morning and I had just parked in Aspen and literally had my hands on my skis to take them off my car to go skiing for the day," says owner Ben Levy, who opened the Fine Line on August 5. "Our dishwasher called because he saw a door open. I called my wife and she came over and saw everything was certainly not right."
Levy quickly headed to the restaurant, where he found a mess of broken glass, spilled oil and burned chips. He originally thought it was arson, but then he noticed that the 300-pound safe had been dragged outside. And then he saw the nacho remnants.
"He had bacon in the oven and punched through the plastic that covered our pizza toppings," says Levy. "He had a to-go box with cheese in it. I'm not sure if he was on round two, but he got down four bags of chips so he must have been hungry. I don't know if he got scared off by something else or saw the fire."
When a chip bag caught fire, it triggered an alarm. Gagner reportedly ripped down the restaurant's surveillance cameras to conceal his identity, but when he fled upstairs in the El Jebel Plaza in which Fine Line is located, he was caught on a different set of cameras. They captured a clear recording of his face and a distinctive puffy white jacket with black stripes.
Somewhere in the criminal handbook there is undoubtedly a passage about discarding recognizable clothing worn while committing crime; apparently Gagner skipped this section. On Tuesday afternoon the owners of the El Jebel Plaza were reviewing a video of the robbery when, just two screens over, they saw live footage of a man walking out of a pedestrian tunnel near the restaurant. He was wearing a distinctive puffy white jacket with black stripes.
A relative of the complex's owners chased down Gagner. Had he not been dressed like a punk-ass teenager, he might have escaped. Instead, the nacho-loving bandit is now locked up in the Eagle County Jail.
After a short break, Levy reoppened Fine Line on Thursday; he's now offering half-price nachos for the next week. Since the burglar was about to make himself some onion, bacon, cheese and pepperoni nachos, he's considering making that a house specialty.
"I thought about it, and calling it the 'bandit nachos,'" says Levy. "It's actually a convenient time since we're changing the menu right now. We'll do anything we can do to recuperate the business we lost."
Aside from the loss of two days of business, Levy also has to repair a stove, an oven, surveillance cameras, a cash register and damage to the floor where the safe was dragged. Recharging the fire suppression system was very expensive, he says. The burglar also reportedly stole a large sum of cash and an iPod, and for some reason stuck the restaurant's GPS used for deliveries in the ice bin. Levy is hoping insurance will cover the physical damage.
He's counting on his regular customers to do the rest. And today, Levy finally allowed himself to laugh at the ridiculous situation after comics about the burglary started popping up on websites based as far away as New York.
"It was an unfortunate situation and we are happy to get some publicity, but we just want to break even from the whole situation," says Levy. "We're not going to try to pump it up too much. We want to do our business based on our food and service, not media hype.
"We are glad he got caught and is not a threat to anyone else," Levy concludes. "Maybe he learned something -- that if he didn't take the time to try and cook himself something it would have turned out better for him."
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