September 6, 2007 in Idaho

Rival arrested in Capone’s fire

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Kathy Plonka photo

“I’m just glad they caught the guy,” Tom Capone says as he walks through the shell of what used to be Capone’s Pub and Grill in Post Falls on Wednesday. His establishment was burned in an arson fire July 25.
(Full-size photo)

A burned pair of tennis shoes and surveillance footage helped Post Falls police nab the owner of a rival sports bar in connection with the July 25 fire that destroyed Capone’s Pub and Grill, police say.

Richard E. Hanlon, 50, owns Paddy’s Sports Bar, which, like Capone’s, has locations in Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene.

Post Falls police arrested Hanlon on Wednesday morning after a monthlong investigation in cooperation with Kootenai Fire and Rescue.

Employees and patrons at Hanlon’s bar noticed that he had burns on his legs immediately after the Capone’s fire and tipped off police, said Post Falls police Lt. Greg McLean. Investigators also received anonymous tips pointing to Hanlon through the Secret Witness program and the department’s Web site.

“We originally had an opportunity to speak to him, and his original claim was that he received the burns changing cooking oil,” McLean said, adding that Hanlon has since hired an attorney and is not talking to police.

A pair of oil-soaked pants was seized in mid-August after police served a search warrant at Hanlon’s home. The oil has yet to be tested, but McLean said he sniffed the pants and they smelled like French fries.

Hanlon had second- to third-degree burns on his ankles, McLean said, and never sought medical treatment.

None of the witnesses who reported Hanlon’s leg burns said he was bad-mouthing Capone’s, and police declined to discuss a possible motive. Hanlon has maintained his innocence throughout the investigation, Lt. Scot Haug said.

Capone’s owner Tom Capone said he’s relieved that someone has been arrested for the arson.

“I’m ecstatic. I haven’t slept well since the fire,” Capone said.

Rumors of Hanlon’s involvement have been swirling in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls since the July fire.

McLean said the prosecuting attorney has asked police not to discuss evidence in the case, but he did reconfirm that burned Nike running shoes collected at the scene were sent for DNA testing.

McLean wouldn’t say whether those shoes are the same size and type worn by Hanlon or if his DNA was recovered from them, but a release issued by the Post Falls Police Department on Wednesday stated that evidence collected at the fire scene connected the arson to Hanlon.

Capone’s and Paddy’s are similar establishments that compete with one another. Capone’s opened in Post Falls in November, and Paddy’s opened in the city a couple of months later.

“We were doing great,” Capone said of his Post Falls restaurant.

Capone said he met Hanlon only on a couple of occasions and that Hanlon had been cordial.

Though there was no personal animosity, there was still the business competition, he said.

“He had a motive,” Capone said. “I guess he thought he was going to get our business.”

Hanlon is in Kootenai County Jail on $750,000 bail. He has been charged with first-degree arson and burglary, both felonies. The arson charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. The burglary charge has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Someone also tried to burn down Capone’s Post Falls business in May, but McLean said there is no evidence connecting Hanlon to that fire.

The July 25 fire destroyed the bar and restaurant shortly after 3 a.m. An explosion caused by the accelerant used to start the fire blew furnishings into the parking lot.

Capone said he hopes to reopen the Post Falls bar and grill by January or February.


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