Austin/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on March 01, 2024
Austin Auto Mogul Dorsey Bryan Hardeman Arrested, Accused of Arson and Burglary Next to His PropertySource: Google Street View

Dorsey Bryan Hardeman, the founder of Continental Automotive Group and long-time automobile entrepreneur, has been arrested on charges of burglary and arson, linked to a fire that scorched a downtown Austin property last weekend. The Austin Fire Department answered the alarm to a fire outbreak at 400 Nueces Street, the ex-home to Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop, now an unoccupied edifice, as reported by CBS Austin.

According to the arrest affidavit, firefighters arrived on Sunday around 4:07 p.m., discovering a smoke-laden interior with sprinklers activated and containing the fire. Investigations into the blaze by the Austin Fire Department concluded the fire was set intentionally, as surveillance footage captured an older white male infiltrating the premises, armed with a gasoline container. Successfully, the police were able to identify this suspect as Hardeman swiftly, who, according to online records, is currently confined at Travis County Jail, with bail set at a total of $50,000.

Hardeman, aged 75, is facing charges for both the burglary of a building and a second-degree felony, with his bond denominated by the jail records; $10,000 for the burglary and $40,000 for the arson charge as reported by the Austin American-Statesman. Hardeman, identified in another arson investigation from February 20th, engaged in a calculated attack, disabling the lock by drilling and pouring gasoline to ignite the fire, the fire department's affidavit revealed.

Continental Automotive Group, owned by Hardeman, boasts several car dealerships sprawled across Austin, with additional locations in Dallas and San Juan in the Rio Grande Valley—priding itself as being "one of the few remaining locally owned and operated, family-run dealership groups in town." As outlined in the affidavit, the entrepreneur's alleged criminal maneuvers emerged after his failed attempt to purchase the property at 400 Nueces Street, which is positioned next to another lot he owns. Hardeman's attorney, Sam Bassett, has yet to comment as he's reviewing the case, stating this in an interview obtained by the Austin American-Statesman.

Further details emerge, Hardeman, recognized by Lt. Chad Messersmith, a fire/arson investigator, from surveillance footage, was also confirmed by another fire investigator who witnessed Hardeman's actions on the video outside his home. Bart Knaggs, owner of Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop, corroborated Hardeman's bitterness towards the property deal gone sour, telling investigators of his previous interest in buying the property, which never came to fruition, as detailed in the affidavit mentioned by the American-Statesman.