A Portland rioter charged today with multiple felonies related to throwing a Molotov cocktail is a 23-year-old homeless ex-Marine who suffers from schizophrenia, according to court documents.
Joseph Sipe was booked into Multnomah County Jail at 1:30 am on four felony counts: attempted murder, arson, attempted assault and and possessing a destructive device.
His arrest follows a protest where a rioter threw at least one Molotov cocktail into the ranks of Portland police, burning one officer's foot. Portland police would not immediately confirm whether Sipe is the suspect in that incident, but he faces charges consistent with throwing a petrol bomb.
In a Multnomah County Circuit Court booking report, Sipe said he had been homeless for nine months, living in a tent, sometimes in the Rose Quarter and other times in Gresham. He said he had last taken medication three or four days ago at the Unity Center, a crisis mental health treatment facility.
Sipe is from Georgia and said he has served two years in the U.S. Marines before going AWOL. Records show he has at least one assault conviction in Georgia. (A police interviewer sounded a note of doubt about Sipe's military service, saying no record of it could be found in his criminal history.)
He told police he regularly uses methamphetamine and cannabis, and had used cannabis the day of the protest.
He is being held on a $525,000 bail. He is one of two people charged with possession of a destructive device after last night's protest.
Portland police arrested 13 people at the protest, which followed a Kentucky grand jury deciding not to indict police officers in the killing of Breonna Taylor.
In a press conference, Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis declined to release more details about Sipe's case. "I don't want to comment a whole lot on an open investigation," Davis said when asked about Sipe in a Thursday press conference. "But I anticipate we will be releasing some more about [this] case in particular very soon."
UPDATE, 5:25 pm: Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt confirmed that his office is filing two felony charges against Sipe for throwing a Molotov cocktail into police ranks.
In a probable cause affidavit, Deputy District Attorney Kelley A. Rhoades says a police officer saw Sipe lighting the petrol bomb.
"One of the Molotov cocktails exploded in the street and caught one of the officers on fire," Rhoades writes. "As officers attempted to move the rioters out of the street and disperse the crowd, an officer watched as Joseph Sipe lit the wick of a Molotov cocktail. The officer attempted to detain Sipe and ultimately tackled him near SW 3rd and SW Main."
The Multnomah County District Attorney's office is pursuing felony charges for rioting and possession of a destructive device. The assault and attempted murder charges listed in the initial arrest were declined.
Later on Thursday, The Oregonian cited unnamed law enforcement sources as saying those charges were declined because Sipe doesn't match the person seen launching the projectile that scorched the officer. In other words, Sipe may have thrown a different Molotov cocktail.
A Portland police spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The affidavit says Sipe confessed.
"Sipe later admitted that he lit the Molotov cocktail and threw the device behind the officers line as it moved on Main Street," the document says.