Grand Jury Will Hear Evidence This Month in Case of Three Teens Accused of Starting Over 36 Fires in Mt. Tabor Park

WW received and reviewed documents that list the charges the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office will present to the grand jury.

Evidence in the case of three Portland teens allegedly responsible for a string of fires in Mt. Tabor Park over the summer will be presented to a grand jury later this month.

WW obtained and reviewed documents that shows the charges the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office will present to the grand jury for each of the three suspects. WW is withholding the date the grand jury will meet at the request of the DA’s office due to fears of witness or victim intimidation and the potential flight risk of the defendants.

The three alleged to have been involved in the fires are Malik Hares, Samuel Perkins and Wayne Chen, all 18. The three attended elementary school together at the Creative Science School and were close friends who hung out outside of the mainstream, according to former classmates. Hares and Perkins both worked at McDonald’s at the time of their arrest.

The string of fires alarmed the Tabor neighborhood, fears that were heightened by a stretch of especially hot days and a “red flag” warning issued due to increased fire risk because of weather conditions. Some neighbors embarked on nighttime patrols, while others mapped out each of the fires’ locations in and around the park. Police arrested the three teens Sept. 11.

All grand jury proceedings are secret. Once a grand jury hears all of the relevant evidence, it can decide to indict or return a no true bill. The grand jury can also elect to pursue additional charges against each defendant.

Hares, according to paperwork, may be charged with second-degree arson. (It’s unclear if he faces one or two such charges.)

Perkins is looking at a first-degree criminal mischief charge, as is the third teen, Wayne Chen—who the DA’s office initially declined to prosecute, citing a lack of evidence.

Chen’s lawyer declined to comment. Perkins’ lawyer did not respond to a request for comment, and Chen’s family did not comment.

The probable cause affidavit provided shortly after the indictment painted a picture of two teens, Hares and Perkins, seeking a thrill.

In the affidavit, a deputy district attorney wrote that Hares admitted to being involved but told police he only drove the car.

“[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, according to the affidavit.

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.”

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.