Portland Man Allegedly Set Fire to a Homeless Camp After Growing Frustrated Police Wouldn’t Crack Down

Man arrested over allegedly setting fire to an East Portland homeless camp on Aug. 15.

Portland homeless camps along Springwater Trail. (WW staff)

A Portland man charged with setting a fire in a homeless camp on Aug. 15 was angry at police for not cracking down on homeless people.

The fire, on a lot near SE 136th and Powell, destroyed a tent in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood.

"It was reported that earlier that day a man living nearby told a group of houseless people in the lot that if they did not move, he would set their things on fire," a Portland Fire and Rescue press release states.

Roy Elworthy, 44, "expressed his frustration about police not enforcing laws against homeless people" during his interview with police after his arrest on August 26, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Two campers witnessed the incident and police obtained surveillance video as well.

Elworthy was arraigned on Tuesday on one charge of reckless burning. He is being held in Multnomah County Jail and is not currently eligible for release because he failed to appear in a Clackamas County case where he was found guilty of harassment.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who oversees the fire bureau, says she's "appalled" by the alleged crime.

"I'm appalled this individual felt he could do something like this – to threaten people and set fire to someone's worldly possessions because of the situation they're in," Hardesty says in a statement.

"We will not tolerate this type of behavior towards some of our most vulnerable Portlanders. I expect him to be held accountable for his actions to the fullest extent possible by law, anything less would be a failure of leadership."

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