A Nashville Taco Bell shift leader was arrested Monday after employees at the restaurant allegedly set off fireworks inside the dining room. The fire caused over $30,000 in damage inside the building. Courtney Mayes, 25, was charged with felony aggravated arson, the Nashville Fire Department said in a statement Monday.
The fire happened on July 5, and Taco Bell management called the Nashville Fire Department investigators on July 8 to report that surveillance footage showed employees playing with fireworks in the building, located on Nolensville Pike. The footage showed them locking the doors to the dining room so customers could not enter the building. Employees then ran around inside the store with the fireworks in their hands, according to the footage. At one point, the employees went into the men's room, out of range from the surveillance camera for a moment.
When they returned to the lobby a few minutes later, they put an item in the trash can near the door, the Nashville Fire Department said. Employees then held out their cell phones to record the trash can from outside the restaurant. At that point, the employees realized they locked themselves out of the store. They called 911 after smoke came from the trash can.
NFD firefighters rushed to the scene and had to break the doors to get inside to extinguish the fire. The fire caused damage inside the restaurant, and investigators later discovered more damage inside the men's bathroom. It appears that the employees also ignited fireworks in the trash can there as well. The investigation remains ongoing, and the NFD believes more arrests will be made soon. Mayes is now in custody at Davidson County Jail, where she is being held on $5,000 bond.
"Arson is one of the costliest human-made disasters. Arson indirectly contributes to increased insurance premiums, higher medical costs, lost jobs, lost income, and the increased costs of fire services," the NFD noted. Investigators asked anyone with more information on the crime to call the Tennessee Arson Hotline at 1-800-792-3017. Calls can remain anonymous.
The fire happened at a Taco Bell location that is not to be confused with the Taco Bell Cantina location in downtown Nashville. The Taco Bell Cantina is located near Broadway and features a stage for musicians to perform and a giant guitar mural. Like other Taco Bell Cantina locations around the country, it serves alcohol and other special menu items not available at a standard Taco Bell restaurant.