A man has been charged with arson in a fire Monday afternoon at Twin Peaks restaurant on Robert C. Daniel Parkway .
Roland Evan Croyle, 45, was arrested by the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. A department news release stated that Croyle crashed his vehicle into the building at 12:49 p.m. and then set it on fire, and that he might have been a former employee.
Dee Griffin, spokeswoman for the Augusta Fire Department, said initial reports of the fire focused on the suspect’s vehicle. It was not until authorities arrived at the restaurant, 277 Robert C. Daniel Parkway, that they noticed flames coming from its roof and entrance.
“They found heavy smoke shooting out from the middle up into the ceiling and out of the roof,” she said.
Jasiah Lewis said he was driving on Bobby Jones Expressway when he saw smoke in the air. When he pulled over, Lewis said, he realized that it was Twin Peaks. He said some people at the restaurant told him a man ran into the building and started the fire.
According to sheriff’s Sgt. Shane McDaniel, the suspect doused gas inside the restaurant and then ignited it. A bystander detained the suspect at gunpoint until Richmond County deputies arrived.
“At that point we took the suspect into police custody,” McDaniel said.
Augusta firefighters remained at the restaurant late into the afternoon to put out hot spots, according to Griffin. Authorities are still investigating what the arsonist used to ignite the gas and any motive. Authorities would not comment on whether weapons were retrieved from the suspect after the fire.
A witness who said he is the father of an employee who was working at the restaurant at the time said the suspect was dismissed from the restaurant a year ago.
McDaniel said that the restaurant was open at the time of the fire but that no injuries have been reported.
The fire was the second at a restaurant in an out-parcel at Augusta Exchange shopping center in slightly more than a year. Macaroni Grill, 275 Robert C. Daniel, was gutted by fire Feb. 29, 2016. Twin Peaks is west of the vacant lot that used to house Macaroni Grill.
The restaurant did not have a sprinkler system, according to documents previously obtained by The Augusta Chronicle.
City inspectors asked restaurant owners to add a sprinkler system during 2014 renovations to the building, which formerly housed the restaurant Sticky Fingers, according to the documents.
In January 2015, however, architect Carlton B. Parker wrote Augusta Fire Marshal Jason Beard and building official Marshall Masters that the building’s new seating plan showed that occupancy would not exceed 300 and that it was classified as “small assembly” and not required to have a sprinkler system. Beard subsequently signed off on the certificate of occupancy.
Anyone with more information concerning the fire is asked to call the sheriff’s office at (706) 821-1000.
Staff Writer Susan McCord contributed to this article.