Two suspected teenage arsonists were arraigned Monday afternoon on first-degree felony charges related to the 36 fires ignited in and around Mt. Tabor Park over the past two months.
Samuel Perkins and Malik Hares, both 18, pleaded not guilty during their arraignments today.
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office is declining at this time to prosecute a third defendant who was initially named, citing a lack of sufficient evidence.
Both defendants appeared for their arraignment today in Multnomah County Circuit Court after being arrested this weekend. During arraignment, Perkins sat in a small room and spoke to Judge Adrian Brown over the phone. He was tearful and repeatedly wiped his eyes. His attorney requested that he be released from custody while awaiting trial. The judge agreed with the defense attorney that because the crime was not violent or threatening physical harm, the defendants should be released while awaiting trial.
Brown put three conditions on both defendants for release: that they not contact one another, step within 150 feet of any Portland park, or posses anything used to ignite a flame.
Both Hares and Perkins work full time at McDonald’s, but it’s unclear whether they met one another while working there. Both teenagers, identified as white in court records, live in single-family homes on Portland’s east side in medium-income neighborhoods.
A probable cause affidavit provided to WW by the DA’s office outlines a portrait of thrill-seeking teenagers.
Police first spoke to Hares about the fires after identifying his car on security cameras.
In the affidavit, a deputy district attorney writes that Hares admitted to being involved but told police he only drove the car and “didn’t know why they were starting these fires, and they were just being stupid.”
“[Hares] claims that someone else lit the fires, but that he was always the driver and frequently would listen for the report that Fire was responding and then return to the scene to watch,” the affidavit reads. “He admitted to speaking with firefighters and an investigator about some of the fires at the scenes.”
The police instructed Hares to call Perkins while they stood by.
Hares relayed over the phone to Perkins that a building on Southeast 92nd Avenue and Caruthers Street had collapsed “after the fire,” to which Perkins responded, “Hmm, that is pretty cool.”
Hares then scolded Perkins for taking too long to return to the car, allowing cameras to capture his license plate number. “Perkins then mocked a person who had been interviewed during the media coverage of the fires,” the affidavit reads.
Then Perkins scolded Hares in return: “Perkins also told Hares that he was putting his foot down on a few things such as Hares was not to be on the scene anymore and Hares was not to talk to the Fire Marshal anymore or any firefighters.”
When police interviewed Perkins, he “admitted starting some fires and talked about doing a house...He said he did it because he liked hanging out with his friends and liked driving away after they did it.”
Neither, according to court records, have any prior conviction history.
According to court documents, Hares completed 10th grade, while Perkins graduated from high school.
Fire investigators said last week it was one of the more complex arson cases in recent history. For weeks, the fires along the slopes of the heavily forested summit have frighened neighbors during the height of wildfire season. Charred swaths of land are visible as you drive up Southeast Lincoln Street along the edge of Mt. Tabor Park.