Officials: Student throwing Molotov cocktails on campus charged in Salty Nut fire

Published: Feb. 1, 2012 at 7:03 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 12, 2012 at 9:06 AM EST
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A still image from surveillance video recorded the morning of the fire. (Source: Columbia Fire...
A still image from surveillance video recorded the morning of the fire. (Source: Columbia Fire Department)
Theodore Podewil (Source: Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center)
Theodore Podewil (Source: Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Bond was set Wednesday afternoon for the 22-year-old University of South Carolina student who police say started a fire that severely damaged the Salty Nut Cafe in early January.

Theodore Podewil's bond was set at $25,000 at his hearing.

Podewil was charged with several different counts of possession/use of an incendiary device.

USC police took Podewil into custody at his home at 934 Laurens Street Tuesday night after fingerprints on an un-exploded Molotov cocktail were found next to a dumpster behind a campus building on Main Street in late January.

"When they went up to his residence, there were more devices -- bottles that hadn't been packaged yet," said Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins. "We're just glad they were able to get him off the streets."

According to arrest warrants, Podewil is also suspected of building and throwing the fire bombs on at least three different occasions in January.

"We found evidence that links him to a lot of these crimes -- bomb making material and other evidence leading us to believe he was going to continue this act had everybody not worked together to get him off the street," said Capt. Scott Prill with the USC Police Department.

Surveillance video from outside the Salty Nut Cafe helped identify Podewil as the suspect, officials said.

Around 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 6, firefighters were called to the restaurant on Greene Street. When they arrived, heavy smoke was pouring out the top of the restaurant.

The blaze caused very heavy damage to the interior of the building, which did not have a sprinkler system and was not required to have one.

General manager Phil Hopewell said he believes the structure is strong enough to rebuild. Hopewell took to his Facebook page to declare his gratitude for the arrest.

"On behalf of Salty Nut, I want to thank the Columbia Fire and Police Departments, SLED, and a special thanks to USC PD and Captain Scott Prill for making the arrest. I also want to thank the community for all the support...your positive feedback has been tremendous."

Meanwhile, Podewil is still being held at the Alvin S. Detention Center. Oddly enough, when the judge asked what he majored in at USC, Podewil laughed and responded, "Criminal justice."

As for the Salty Nut Cafe, Hopewell says it's possible it could reopen by St. Patrick's Day.

Related story:

Fire chief: Salty Nut Cafe fire could be arson

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