Alleged Burglar Accidentally Sparks Small Fire at Charlie’s in Los Alamos

Darren Richter, 33, of Santa Maria is facing charges of vehicle theft, burglary and vandalism

A Santa Maria man is facing vehicle theft, burglary and vandalism charges after allegedly breaking into Charlie’s Restaurant in Los Alamos and starting a small fire. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

By Janene Scully

One man has been arrested after allegedly breaking into Charlie’s Restaurant in Los Alamos where he accidentally sparked a fire, disabled the alarm, and stole a motorcycle from a neighboring property, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

At 11:30 p.m. Sunday, personnel from the Sheriff’s Department and the county Fire Department responded to the popular eatery on Bell Street.

They discovered that a suspect broke two windows and kicked in a door at Charlie’s, Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.

“During the course of his time inside of the establishment, he accidentally set fire to the stove top in the kitchen, as well as ripping out the battery to the alarm system,” Hoover said.

The small fire reportedly sparked when the suspect knocked a plastic container onto the stove’s pilot light, fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said.

Firefighters were able to put out the fire quickly.

The suspect exited the establishment and allegedly went to a neighboring property in the 100 block of Den Street where he stole a motorcycle from a trailer, Hoover said.

Deputies located the motorcycle’s owner and returned the vehicle early Monday morning.

The suspect, Darren Richter, 33, of Santa Maria, was spotted while walking on Highway 1 toward Graciosa Road, and was arrested on suspicion of vehicle theft, burglary and vandalism, Hoover said.

Charlie’s remained closed Tuesday, apparently pre-planned for the holidays after closing early Dec. 23, according to a sign at the front of the restaurant. It was set to reopen Wednesday.

The original Charlie’s opened in 1978 in Los Alamos, the business website says.

Five years ago, a sister restaurant, Charlie’s Place, opened in San Luis Obispo, also offering American and Mexican food.

— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.