FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — Boards are all that’s left of what used to be a decor store, Alejandra’s Mexican Restaurant and a Jimmy John’s on Main Street in Visalia.
A fire, that officials say was started by 56-year-old Jessie Hager in a dumpster behind the building, destroyed the businesses on May 1. Visalia police arrested Hager on May 2.
“It was because of some cameras that had been set up. Our HOPE team that deals with homelessness 24/7 saw the picture and they were able to identify immediately who it was via his clothes and shoes,” said Steve Nelson, the mayor of Visalia and CEO of Downtown Visalia.
Hager has been charged with two felony counts of arson. If convicted, he faces up to six years and eight months in prison.
“I think people need to understand that if you’re going to do something negative, there is a consequence,” Nelson said.
The owner of Alejandra’s Restaurant and the owner of the building were not available for an interview but both of them say they plan on re-opening Alejandra’s in that location and possibly expanding into the decor store next door, whose owners say they do not plan on re-opening.
“The property owner is moving forward as rapidly as possible. First, they’re going to have to gut the inside and do the rebuild,” Nelson said.
In the meantime, Mayor Nelson has hired a muralist to paint over the boards.
“What we look for is something that’s positive, colorful, to brighten the area,” he said.
A GoFundMe has been created for Alejandra’s restaurant and its employees.
Hager will appear in court again on June 2.