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Arson suspect enters plea

A man accused of setting the Columbia House Restaurant in Columbia State Historic Park on fire over the weekend pleaded not guilty to arson and drug charges Wednesday in Tuolumne County Superior Court.

The District Attorney’s Office charged Daenon Vincent Brewer, a 21-year-old transient, with felony arson and a misdemeanor of being under the influence of opiates.

Because the alleged arson exceeded $200,000 in damages, an enhancement was applied to the charge.

Brewer’s bail was set at $100,000 on Wednesday. He was initially booked into Tuolumne County Jail without bail. 

Brewer was arrested by the Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of arson, burglary and violation of probation — all felony charges — at 6:34 p.m. Sunday, about 10 minutes after Cal Fire received multiple reports about a fire at the restaurant. 

He was also booked on suspicion of misdemeanor charges of drunk and disorderly conduct and being under the influence of drugs, and an infraction of possession of marijuana under one ounce.

The District Attorney’s Office is only charging him with arson and being under the influence of drugs.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Nick Casci said 75 percent of the Main Street structure was destroyed, but fire crews were able to save the adjoining Angelo’s Hall building. 

The Sheriff’s Office received a call from the City Hotel on Main Street about 6:22 p.m. stating that a man was banging on the doors and windows and cursing and spitting at customers, according to dispatch logs. 

Park employees have seen Brewer in the area several times and said “he’s always causing trouble,” according to Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jeff Wilson. 

The Sheriff’s Office received another call shortly after from the person who reported the initial disturbance saying Brewer had started a fire. 

Investigators said Brewer broke into the closed business through the front door and set the restaurant’s Christmas tree on fire, according to Wilson.

Engines from Cal Fire in Calaveras County, Tuolumne County Fire’s Jamestown station, the Columbia Fire Department and Sonora City Fire Department responded.

Also on scene were two water tenders, a battalion chief, division chief and two off-duty firefighters.

The fire was contained at 8:02 p.m. and completely extinguished at 10:08 p.m., according to Cal Fire Communications Operator Jim Devoll. 

No injuries were reported.

Brewer remained in Tuolumne County Jail this morning, and will return to court Jan. 11 at 8:15 a.m. for a preliminary hearing.

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