Seven persons remained hospitalized yesterday, two of them in critical condition, following a fire in the crowded Shepherd Park Restaurant Monday night that was started when someone threw a pail of gasoline into the club and then tossed in match.
The restuarant exploded in flames, but most of the some 100 persons inside were able to sramble to safety through rear and side entrances. Fifteen persons were treated for burns, cuts and smoke inhalation in what fireman said was one of the worst fires in the District in years.
Police had no suspects yesterday, but speculated that the the arsonists were the same young men who had been thrown out of the club for rowdiness a half hour before the fire began.
"They said they would be back and burn the place down," the Shepherd Park's owner. Ben Zanganeh, said yesterday. "I've heard that kind of talk a hundred times over the years. You figure they'll go on home. These people said the same thing and no one took them seriously."
Zanganeh's club, a popular, bottomlessgo-go-spot just inside the District line on Georgie Avenue, was left a charred shell. Inside, the wood was black and the metal melted.
Edward L. Williams, 19, and Army private from Rockville, was left a charred shell. Inside rivate from Rockville, was in critical condition at Washington Hospital Center with third degree burns over 50 per cent of his body. Brenda Freeny, a costume designer from Hyattsville, was also listed in critical condition in the hospital's burn ward.
ThomasCady, 21, of New Carollton, Md., and Elaine Burbank, a go-go-dancer from Burtonsville, Md., were in serous condition at the hospital.
Richard L. Williams, 21, a Navy enlisted man, was in the serious condition at the National Naval Medical Center, and Michael Elvin, 34, was in serious condition and John Watkinson was in fair condition at Providence Hospital.
Police and fire officials said that three young men were told to leave the club about 9:30 by bouncer Doug Bly. The three men cursed customers and stood at the threshhold, refusing to leave. A brawl broke out, in which three to five customers joined in and the three men fled, vowing to return.
Witness then saw two or three men trip a rubber hose off a gas pump at a nearby service station and fill a container with gasoline, said the fire department spokesman, Francis Flaherty.
The front door of the club was pushed open and a white plastic pail of gasoline tossed 25 feet into the club, drenching people and furniture, the fire department spokesman said. The ignition was believedto have been caused by a match or pack of matches.
In the initial confusion a police officer in street clothes, rushing toward the club, was hit over the head with a tire iron when someone mistook him for one of the arsonists. The officer, Robert Thompson, 27, was treated for head cuts and released at Washington Hospital Center.
With the front door in flames and the rear, delivery entrance locked, most of the customers escaped through a side door. Firemen brought the blaze under control by 10:30 Monday night, about 25 minutes after was reported.
Zanganeh and fire officials estimated that it will cost $50,000 to rebuild the club. All the contentswere lost, and were not insured, Zanganeh said. "I canceled the insurance about two months ago when the y doubled the premiums," Zanganeh said. "I was shopping around when this happened."
The Shepherd Park was popular among businessman at launch and sudents and constrution workers at night. A few years ago the club was a hangout for motorcycle riders and it has always attracted a regular white clientele from suburban Maryland.In recent months more and more black have bren patronizing the club. Some customers reported observing racial tension during visits. Zanganeh said he was not aware of any such tension.
Zanganeh, 32, is a former Montgomery College student who took over the Shepherd Park with the help of an inheritance from relatives in Iran. He sent said, and experts to reopen the sheperd Park within month.