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Owner of five Burger Kings killed by 9-year-old in hunting accident

Man who owned several restaurants killed in hunting accident

Olen Arnold was strong supporter of workers' comp reform, admired by staff

The Bakersfield Californian

Posted: Monday February 14th, 2005, 11:45 PM

Olen Arnold, a well-liked local restaurateur who, with his wife, was active in pro-business politics, died in a hunting accident near Wasco on Sunday. He was 61.

Arnold owned five Burger Kings and five Papa O's Pizzerias in Bakersfield, having gotten into the fast-food business here in 1981.

Friends described him as a warm family man who was always willing to help out with community fund-raisers and was incredibly astute at business.

Arnold was also an active spokesman for private-property rights and workers' compensation reform, although not as much as his wife of more than 30 years, Terry.

Longtime friend and employee Wally Kelly said Arnold worked incredibly hard, loved sports and the outdoors, and was the smartest man he knew. Above all, he said, Arnold was a great friend.

"If I had a problem, whether it was personal or business, Olen is the person I'd go to," Kelly said.

A 9-year-old boy accidentally shot Arnold while the two were pheasant hunting, according to the California Department of Fish and Game.

Fish and Game officials declined to release the boy's name on Monday, citing a California privacy statute.

"We're going to err on the side of privacy for the family," Fish and Game spokesman Mike Wintemute said.

Kelly said the Arnolds' grandson, who was being raised by the couple, was on the hunting trip.

Arnold was born in Georgia and moved to Bakersfield from Florida in 1981, Kelly said.

He said Arnold started out buying four Burger Kings here and eventually owned 14. He started Papa O's in 1992 after taking over Lamppost Pizza.

Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall described Arnold as a positive person who greeted him every time with a cheery "Mr. Hall, how are you doing?"

"He was always smiling, being happy about whatever he was involved in," Hall said.

Arnold was a champion of private property rights and could always be counted on to give a door prize or otherwise help raise funds for such things as youth soccer programs, Hall said.

Greg Gallion, CEO of Houchin Community Blood Bank, said Arnold also adored his family.

When his daughter was seriously ill a couple years ago, Gallion said, Arnold was "by her side every minute of the day." Arnold doted on his grandchildren, too, he said.

"This is just a tragic event," Gallion said.

State Sen. Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, said Arnold didn't just stay up on business issues for himself but out of concern for his workers.

Arnold was warm and very direct, not using a lot of words to get his political message across, Ashburn said.

"You never had any doubt where he was coming from," he said.

The shooting accident happened around 11:36 a.m. at the West Side Waterfowl Gun Club near Wasco, Fish and Game spokesman Troy Swauger said.

Eyewitnesses told investigators that Arnold was walking in a line with a hunting party of four at the time of the accident, Swauger said.

The group came across a pheasant which hit the air and banked to the left. That's reportedly when the boy fired his gun and hit Arnold, Swauger said.

One shot struck Arnold in the abdomen, according to coroner's officials. He died at 2:12 p.m. at Kern Medical Center.

All of the hunters in the party had passed state-required tests to earn their licenses, Swauger said. Hunters need to undergo at least 10 hours of education in California before they take the tests.

Fish and Game investigators are collecting information on whether the firearm was negligently discharged, Swauger said. As a matter of routine, their report will go to the Kern County District Attorney's Office for review.

Although hunting accidents statewide are rare, Arnold's death was the second Kern County hunting fatality this year.

Luigi John Pierotti, 25, of Arcadia, was hunting duck in rural Wasco on Jan. 30 when he accidentally shot himself in the chest with his shotgun, according to coroner's officials.

There are usually about 10 to 15 hunting accidents per year, including nonfatal accidents, Swauger said. That's among about 300,000 hunters in the state.

"Hunting is still considered one of the safest sports out there," he said.

Arnold is survived by his wife, two children and two grandchildren, friends said.  

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