FORT WORTH — Authorities are seeking to cancel the permit of a Fort Worth liquor store that allegedly sold alcohol to an 18-year-old man who died in March in a mobile home fire in Granbury that claimed the lives of five others.
Investigators believe that alcohol contributed to the inability of six victims to escape the March 6 fire at a home on Lake Granbury.
Hood County Fire Marshal Brian Fine said all six victims had either alcohol, drugs or both in their systems and were "impaired to some degree."
"The six that were inside didn’t move from where they were sleeping," Fine said. "The combination of those basically put them in a position to where they were unable to respond as they normally would."
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Officials allege that 18-year-old Calvin Reineck bought three bottles of vodka on March 5 at USA Liquor at 9116 Camp Bowie West, previously known as Fuggedaboudit Liquor, prior to hosting a party at his residence in the 4500 block of Wildwood Circle in Granbury.
His father was out of town.
Nine people later fell asleep at the house when a fire was ignited early the next morning. Three people escaped but six others — Reineck, Alexis Schooley, 17, Vivian Rodriguez, 18, Nick Evans, 19, Savannah Marrero, 16, and Tim Moran, 30 — died.
Liquor store sting
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission officials say they are now seeking to cancel the liquor store's permit based on the store's sale of alcohol to Reineck, permitting the minor into the store, as well as the sale of alcohol to two other minors in a subsequent undercover sting by the agency.
The agency has filed one administrative charge of Permitting a Minor in a Package Store and three administrative charges of Sale of Alcoholic Beverages to a Minor, the release states.
The store is owned by James Joseph Buckley, who could not be reached for comment.
"A license or permit issued under the Alcoholic Beverage Code is a personal privilege and is subject to revocation or suspension if the holder is found to have violated the law," TABC Lt. Gene Anderson said in a news release Tuesday. "Our investigation shows that Mr. Buckley's repeated sales of alcohol to teenagers are a significant public safetyrisk, and through the legal process, TABC will assert that he has lost the privilege of holding a TABC permit."
The TABC had already sought two criminal charges against Buckley for selling/making alcohol available to a minor in connection with the undercover stings in March and April.
Tarrant County court records show Buckley was sentenced on Aug. 24 to one-year, non-reporting deferred adjudication probation and a $340 fine as part of a plea agreement on the two Class A misdemeanor charges.
Anderson said Buckley has requested a hearing on the permit matter before a State Office of Administrative Hearing judge.
'One of those screw-up things'
In a March interview with the Star-Telegram, Buckley acknowledged his mistake during a sting operation after the fire.
"I was so tired and exhausted and I wasn't even paying attention," the owner said. "I check IDs, and if they're too young, they aren't getting anything. I work six days a week and I was tired. ... It was one of those screw-up things."
However, the owner said he does not intentionally sell alcohol to minors and doesn't know how authorities can prove or disprove whether a minor who died in the Granbury fire bought alcohol at his business.
"I don't know if they have proof or whatever," he said. "I don't have any cameras. ... I just want to get this thing over with and move on. I'm just trying to make a business. If I lose this, I'll be out in the streets like everybody else."
Anderson said Tuesday that the agency based their case on evidence collected at the scene, witness statements and subpoenaed information, including bank documents.
"We have worked very, very hard on this case," Anderson said. "It was just an emotional rollercoaster when you're dealing with families and the families of victims. It's hard."
The fire's cause was ruled undetermined because the now-closed investigation could not conclusively determine what started the blaze.
Fine said, however, investigators suspect the fire began accidentally due to either an electrical lamp located near a bed or someone smoking in bed.
Staff writer Domingo Ramirez contributed to this report.