WEBSTER, Mass. — People in Webster can’t believe a pile of charred debris is what’s left of the Wind Tiki Chinese Restaurant after police say a man set it on fire.
Flames tore through the roof on March 18, and it took firefighters several hours to put it out.
“It was kind of intense, I heard it happened really fast, like, we were up that night and we heard all the sirens,” said Katie McGlynn.
Many say the restaurant was a staple in town, serving families for decades.
“It’s really sad, especially because it’s a family business. I mean, not too many of those made it through the pandemic, especially the restaurants,” said McGlynn.
Debbie Tetreault used to bring her sons there.
“Even way before they were born, my parents used to go, they used to take us,” said Tetreault.
Police say they arrested Joel Batista-Viera for setting the Wind Tiki on fire.
They also found surveillance of him trying to break into Lake Pizza down the street, and they found evidence of this same man breaking into the Mexicali Restaurant and trying to start a fire there too.
“I love Mexicali I can’t believe he tried to burn that place down, really happy he didn’t,” said Derek Piekarczyk.
Police say while the Wind Tiki Restaurant was on fire, they found surveillance of the suspect inside the Mobil gas station nearby.
“From that video we were able to capture a still photo, which we released to the public in an effort to identify the individual that was a person of interest,” said Chief Michael Shaw of the Webster Police Department.
After the suspect’s picture was on social media for a few days, police say he turned himself in, and they’re now looking into whether he’s responsible for other commercial break-ins over the last few months.
Many in town say they’re glad an arrest has been made, but they’re sad to see this restaurant go.
“It’s one of those places where even if it comes back, it’s not going to be the same, so it’s a shame,” said Piekarczyk.
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