Marine suspected of drunken arson at downtown restaurant

SAN DIEGO -- A 21-year-old Marine was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of drunkenly starting a fire at a restaurant in the Gaslamp District, causing an estimated $25,000 in damage.

The blaze at Blue Point Coastal Cuisine at 565 Fifth Ave. near Market Street was reported around 1:45 a.m. and was quickly doused by the building's sprinkler system, San Diego Fire-Rescue spokeswoman Monica Munoz said.

Guests staying next door at youth hostel were evacuated for about 30 minutes as a precaution, said one guest, "I was dreaming about an alarm and then there was pounding on my door, I guess I was the lat person out."

Another woman who lives next door said she saw smoke while coming back from the store and was worried for her pets in her 4th floor apartment.

Investigators determined that the fire was started in the back of the restaurant, which was closed at the time, by an allegedly intoxicated man who was not an employee of the eatery, Munoz said. The suspect came in through an open door, started vandalizing the restaurant and set a few fires in the back, Munoz alleged.

Police identified the suspect as Austin Kokin, a Marine Corps corporal. He was arrested near the eatery and booked into the San Diego Central Jail on suspicion of burglary, arson, carrying a concealed dirk or dagger and vandalism, San Diego police public affairs Officer Billy Hernandez said. Bail was set at $150K.

The sprinkler system did not turn off right away and water accumulated in the basement of the business, causing an estimated $25,000 in damage, Munoz said.  No significant damage to the eating area of the restaurant and it will open as usual for dinner Wednesday night.

A 21-year-old Marine corporal is accused of starting a fire that caused $25,000 in damage to a downtown restaurant.