The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office issued criminal citations on Sept. 17 to three men who set up checkpoints at the gateway to the Columbia River Gorge as wildfires raged across Oregon.
On Sept. 15, patrol deputies responded to a call at the intersection of East Larch Mountain Road and Historic Columbia River Highway in Corbett, following a report that civilians were illegally blocking the road and demanding people stop. One driver reported being followed and blocked by three vehicles.
The sheriff's office cited 36-year-old Joshua Smith, 18-year-old Travis Lucky and 36-year-old Michael Meier for disorderly conduct in the second degree.
The Guardian reported Wednesday that armed vigilantes were stopping vehicles at checkpoints in Corbett. The report came amid widespread accounts of vigilantism in Clackamas and Marion counties, where residents feared looting during the fires and, in some cases, believed falsehoods about anti-fascist arsonists setting fires.
Following The Guardian's story, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said the roadblocks were a signal of how poisoned the nation had become by online disinformation, just three years after residents of Portland and the Gorge banded together to fight the Eagle Creek Fire. She also called for an investigation of whether sheriff's office deputies tacitly encouraged the Corbett roadblocks.
"I will absolutely not tolerate vigilantism of any kind in Multnomah County, especially when it further traumatizes people escaping a disaster," Kafoury said. "Additionally, I am deeply concerned about the reports that the words of some Multnomah County sheriff's staff were interpreted by some residents as support or encouragement for roadblocks and vigilante patrols. If that turns out to be true, it is categorically unacceptable."
It is unclear if the three men cited by the sheriff's office carried weapons. The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office declined to release incident reports to WW.
"The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office will not tolerate this type of illegal activity," Sheriff Mike Reese said in a statement. "If you see this activity or are stopped by a civilian, call 911, and a deputy will respond and investigate. We encourage people to call the sheriff's office to report suspicious activity and to not take action on their own."