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Suspect in crimes at Portland houses of worship makes first appearance in court

Published: May. 7, 2022 at 3:10 PM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - Michael Bivins, the man who allegedly vandalized and attempted to set fire to several houses of worship in the Portland area made his first appearance in Court Monday.

Bivins is being held at the Multnomah County Detention Center on several charges:

  • Criminal mischief in the third degree for breaking a window Congregation Shir Tikvah on April 30.
  • Criminal mischief in the third degree for putting graffiti on the synagogue of Congregation Beth Israel on May 2.
  • Arson in the first degree (Measure 11) for trying to start a fire in the occupied mosque of the Muslim Community Center of Portland on May 3.
  • Criminal mischief in the first degree for throwing a large rock through a library window at Congregation Beth Israel on May 4.

Bivins has been identified as a onetime freelance journalist who covered political extremism in Portland until 2019.

“Our arson investigator got involved in the case and since then she has been chasing this suspect and connecting him to other incidents,” said Kevin Allen of PPB. “So we know the incidents go back to April 30 at this point and she is still working to see if there are any other cases that might be related.”

On Wednesday, Bivins came by the FOX 12 station asking to speak to a reporter. He said he was the one vandalizing places of worship, gave names and locations of places he had been to and vandalized, and said he would not stop committing these crimes before stating he would come back to the station Friday afternoon.

After he left the station, FOX 12 contacted authorities, sharing the information he had provided. Meanwhile, police say he went back to Beth Israel and threw a large rock through a library window.

“We were notified by Beaverton police that they had been contacted by KPTV about this guy showing up and claiming that he was involved and apparently wanted to talk to a reporter on that topic,” said Allen. “The Beaverton police detective recognized that this might be a pretty important clue. They contacted our detective and developed a plan to get him into custody.”

On Friday, Bivins was arrested as he was making his way back to the FOX 12 station.

“This is certainly noteworthy that someone would contact a news station and want to discuss crimes they committed,” said Allen. “I’m not sure what the motivation there was, but we are certainly grateful to you and KPTV for working with our investigators so we could get him arrested, get him into custody and find appropriate charges for him. It’s important to note too that this is early in the investigation. I know the detective is continuing to work on what charges could be appropriate and we could be putting more charges forth going forward.”

Portland police say they are in contact with federal authorities about this investigation and additional charges are possible.

“I certainly cannot remember another case quite like this. It’s certainly unusual behavior for a suspect. It will be interesting to see as the investigation proceeds how this all plays out. We always remind folks an arrest is actually not the end of a case. There’s still a lot of work to be done,” said Allen. “This whole idea of someone putting graffiti and trying to burn down a house of worship and breaking windows, this is terrifying for members of our community. So we put a lot of effort and emphasis into this investigation because we really wanted to end this behavior that is causing so much fear in our community.”