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Hayden Panettiere

WENN

It's not exactly a special power, but it was apparently enough to get this Heroes dad thrown in the clink.

E! News has learned that Hayden Panettiere's father, Alan "Skip" Panettiere, may have been drinking when he was popped last night by Los Angeles police for allegedly hitting his wife, Lesley.

The elder Panettiere, a retired firefighter who owns a string of Laundromats in Long Island, was booked at a West Hollywood station on one felony count of spousal abuse and is currently being held on $50,000 bond.

Michelle Bega, the Heroes star's publicist, declined to comment on the arrest except to say "this is a private matter."

But Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, told E! News alcohol may have been a factor in the domestic spat that began after the couple arrived home from a benefit party their famous daughter hosted on behalf of the Whaleman Foundation at Beso, a restaurant owned by Eva Longoria Parker.

"The victim was struck three times," said the spokesman. "We believe that alcohol may be involved, so that will be a part of the investigation. He's currently in custody on $50,000 bail, and that's where we are right now."

Whitmore added that 52-year-old Lesley Panettiere, who sustained bruises to her right cheek, declined medical treatment at the scene. She also refused an emergency protection order—an immediate restraining order typically granted in domestic violence cases in order to protect spouses following an incident of abuse—against her 49-year-old hubby.

As a result, Skip, who was released on bond at approximately 1:22 p.m. this afternoon, will be allowed to return to the residence the pair share.

Whitmore also was unable to confirm whether the Panettiere's two children, 18-year-old Hayden and her 13-year-old actor-brother, Jansen, were present at the time of the altercation.

However, sources tell E! News exclusively that Alan Panettiere has been known to be a hothead and has often been seen "coming down hard" on his family, even dating back to the days when their kids played organized sports.

The source recounted one such incident at a teenage league baseball game in Beverly Hills when Skip was on the sidelines watching Jansen pitch and became so irate it made other parents uncomfortable.

"He went postal on Jansen because he wasn't pitching right," the eyewitness recalled. "He got nutty. He was yelling and screaming at his kid in front of everyone. He was really pissed off and was really negative."

According to the source, however, Panettiere is just deeply protective of his family and often is just looking out for their best interests.

"He's a nice guy, but he has a tendency to get upset," the insider added. "He wants what is best for his kids, but he really needs to back off."

As for his relationship with his missus, whenever the two caught one of Jansen's games, there was never any hint of problems between them.

"He was always nice and very respectful to Lesley," the source said. "I don't know what set him off. He is very protective of his family. My heart goes out to him."

—Additional reporting by Claudia Rosenbaum