Alleged Mt. Tabor arson suspects plead not guilty

Published: Sep. 11, 2022 at 2:32 PM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - Police arrested three 18-year-olds for intentionally setting fires near and inside Mount Tabor Park in Southeast Portland on Saturday night, according to Portland Fire & Rescue. The three men were expected in court Monday afternoon.

PF&R said investigators arrested Malik Hares and Samuel Perkins both 18. 18-year-old Wayne Chen is now not being charged at this time in this case, but Hares and Perkins each face five counts of first-degree arson, and four counts of second-degree arson.

Investigators said the suspects are believed to be responsible for several dozen intentionally set fires. PF&R said several arsons have been reported near Mt. Tabor and surrounding areas. An intense investigation began with information from residents, the Portland Police Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation.

There is no cost estimate for the damages from the fire but PF&R said there was damage to brush, ground cover and some trees.

The park is used daily by hikers, runners, and bicyclists from the neighborhood and beyond.

“This is definitely a treasured place for us and our community. We bring out kids here, we walk here, we hang out here and so it’s been … kinda alarming,” said a woman at the park, “and scary and sad over the last several days. This has been a conversation our whole community has been having about this.”

The threat of wildfire was bad this past weekend with high winds, but it has been a danger throughout the hot summer.

PF&R chief Sara Boone released the following statement:

Judge Adrian Brown granted a pre-trial release, but was reluctant at first because of these fires being set in recent weeks, when wildfire danger is at an all-time high.

“It’s not just the act itself it’s the timing of it and the complete disregard as alleged, which is concerning,” said Brown during the arraignment. “We all experienced the smoke and air quality this weekend, the fear of forest fires in this area is as recent as 2020.”

Relatives of Hares and Perkins were in the courtroom but declined to comment when asked by reporters about the charges the two young men are facing. Locals who live nearby the park are shocked.

Hares and Perkins are due back in court on Oct. 4.