ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – It’s a bizarre story of a bumbling burglar who could have burned a downtown Albuquerque block to the ground.
Police say a man sparked a fire inside a well-known downtown restaurant and took off, but you could say he was caught red handed because he was covered in fake blood.
It all happened Lindy’s Diner on 5th and Central. The owners opened the doors this weekend to the smell of smoke inside the building.
Lindy’s owners Steve and Dawn Vatoseow are used to serving food on a daily basis and sometimes, running into the occasion celebrity rolling through Albuquerque.
“Jessica Alba, Richard Gere, Dennis Hopper, Jay Mohr, Steven Seagal,” said Steve Vatoseow while looking at his wall of photos with famous actors and actresses who’ve filmed in Albuquerque.
While there were no stars over the weekend, the diner still found itself in the middle of its own drama.
“It’s just surreal,” said Dawn Vatoseow, co-owner of Lindy’s. “Chasing somebody down the street with my Santa suit.”
Police say a man named Michael Jones was at the center of it and covered in fake blood.
“He was so filthy,” said Dawn Vatoseow.
The story started up above the diner after the owners smelled smoke when the opened up on Saturday morning. Steve Vatoseow took KRQE News 13’s camera inside the historic shuttered hotel on Tuesday morning.
“This is where he started the fire,” said Steve, pointing to a metal table.
Steve found hot embers on the table. He says someone took the head of a life-size Santa statue from another room, then burned it.
“It was just glowing, so had this thing like spread to the wood, this is 100 year old building, I mean it could have actually had the whole block burned down,” said Steve.
The room that the culprit burned the Santa head in was also the set of a horror movie that crews are working on. That room was covered in spilled fake blood.
Inside Lindy’s a few hours later, a customer spotted Jones outside.
“He goes hey there’s your Santa suit, so I went out to stop the guy,” said Dawn.
Jones had a shopping cart with stolen film equipment and the missing Santa cape. He also was covered in fake blood.
“We noticed he had a long dagger a huge knife on him,” said Dawn.
The restaurant called police, who then arrested Jones. In court Monday, Jones was jittery.
Lindy’s says they’re just glad they still have their building.
“This building has been here a lot of years a lot of history and it could have just been gone over something ridiculous stupid,” said Dawn.
Police say they were able to recover everything that was stolen from the building. Jones is still in MDC on an aggravated burglary charge. He isn’t facing any charges related to setting the fire so far. The building owners say there wasn’t enough smoke to cause any damage.