September 11, 2020
While a number of people have been arrested for arson in recent days, none appear to have explicit ties to the network.
Douglas County Sheriff’s Office officials wrote on Facebook that 911 dispatchers were “being overrun with requests for information and inquiries on an UNTRUE rumor that 6 Antifa members have been arrested for setting fires” in the county.
The rumor isn’t true, officials said, urging people to stop spreading it.
The Molalla Police Department, while asking people to report any suspicious activity because of rumors about people looting while fires raged, later edited its post, telling people: “This is about possible looters, not antifa or setting of fires. There has been NO antifa in town.”
And the Medford Police Department posted a screenshot of a story that claimed police arrested a man for arson.
“This is a made up graphic and story. We did not arrest this person for arson, nor anyone affiliated with Antifa or ‘Proud Boys’ as we’ve heard throughout the day. Also, no confirmed gatherings of Antifa which has also been reported,” the department stated on social media.
Antifa members have repeatedly set fires in Portland this summer.
Some individuals have been arrested this month for arson or with incendiary devices in Oregon, California, Washington state.
Elias Newton Pendergrass, 44, was arrested last week for allegedly setting a fire that burned hundreds of acres near Eugene, Oregon, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office said.
Detectives took a 27-year-old man into custody in Madera County, California on Thursday because he possessed illegal firearms, drugs, and bomb-making materials.
Christine Comello, 36, was arrested in Spokane, Washington on Monday on suspicion of setting fires.
And two men were apprehended in Puyallup and Parkland, Washington trying to ignite flames, state troopers said. Jeffrey Acord, one of the men, said he called police after a fire started near him during a live stream on Facebook.
“I’m out here on 167 right now it looks like a fire literally just started,” Acord said in the video.
“Ultimately it was determined is that they had probable cause to believe that gentleman had started that fire,” Puyallup Police Capt. Jason Visnaw told King 5.
Acord was arrested during unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 for possession of a concealed weapon and other charges. According to his Facebook page, he is a Black Lives Matter supporter.
Humans are believed to be behind several fires that burned through over 2,000 acres in Lincoln County as well as flames that destroyed some 600 houses in Almeda County.
“We have good reason to believe that there was a human element to it,” Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara told Reuters. “We’re going to pursue it as a criminal investigation until we have reason to believe that it was otherwise.”
O’Meara told The Oregonian that rumors regarding Antifa were “100 percent false.”
“We have some leads, and none of it points in that direction,” he added.Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber