An Oregon sheriff’s office made 21 arrests for theft and trespassing over the past two weeks in evacuation zones ravaged by wildfires.
Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office reported Monday that between 6am on September 8 and 4pm September 21, deputies made the arrests in Level 2 and Level 3 evacuation zones as looters hoped to steal from homeowners who had abandoned their possessions amid the flames.
Across the area, some residents have erected anti-looting and trespassing signs in an attempt to warn off the opportunist thieves. Some of the signs warned that looters and arsonists would be shot.
According to Fox News, Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts last week warned against residents taking action for themselves after receiving reports that armed individuals were illegally stopping drivers in evacuations zones at gunpoint to ward away potential looters
James Dean Shotwell, 34, was charged with theft and burglary on September 11
James Dean Shotwell, 34, (right) and Sandy Faye Lenox, 34 (left) were charged with theft and burglary after they were found with two gas-powered generators, a box of hand tools including a cordless drill, two leaf blowers, and at least one gas can they had allegedly stolen
Buck Adam Nickel, 41, allegedly tried to help himself to a trailer that another couple were using to try to help residents evacuate the area. He was caught in the act by a sheriff’s deputy
Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office made 21 arrests for theft and trespassing over the past two weeks in evacuation zones ravaged by wildfires between September 8 and 21
He said that all suspicious activity should be reported to the sheriff’s office as some drivers could be returning home to collect possessions.
Among those arrested, charges included criminal trespassing, second-degree burglary, possession of burglary tools/ theft device, possession of stolen property, recklessly endangering, first-degree theft.
Others were charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, a felon in possession of a restricted weapon, resisting arrest, possession of heroin and meth and interfering with a peace officer.
Several of those arrested faced multiple charges including Ryan Burnette, 31, and Justin Valente, 32, who were taken into custody on September 13 after being found in their vehicle with heroin, methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, a dagger, an air-powered pistol replica, an assortment of shaved vehicle keys, and a single firework, as well as various hand and power tools.
Justin Valente, 32, was charged with drug possession and possession of a Restricted Weapon
Deputies had been dispatched to investigate their car in a Level 3 evacuation area after reports of suspicious activity.
As deputies approached, they attempted to flee but were stopped using spike strips.
Burnette stated he fled because he was scared and believed he had a warrant for his arrest. He said he was in the area to help his dad move, but was unable to provide his dad’s address.
Andrew Eric Roberts-Nichols, 32, was also charged with possession of heroine on September 10. He was already on probation for mail theft.
Also in the car were Trevor Irish, 42, who was cited for a suspended license for unpaid tickets, and Holly Fawn Fay, 32, who was cited for heroin possession and a warrant for possession of methamphetamine.
Fay was also on probation for drug possession.
Justin Valente, 32, being placed under arrest after a highway chase
Cops were forced to use spike strips to stop Valente’s car
Andrew Eric Roberts-Nichols, 32, was charged with possession of heroine on September 10
On September 11, Buck Adam Nickel, 41, and Kimberlee Tipton, 52, were arrested and charged with Theft I after they attempted to steal a tractor being used by another couple to help people evacuate from the area.
The couple got a flat tire on the trailer they were using to help others. They unhooked the trailer and went to get supplies to fix the tire, leaving the trailer on Judd Road in Eagle Creek.
While they were gone, the two suspects found the trailer and decided to help themselves. A deputy found the trailer as they were in the middle of stealing it.
Nickel was also found in possession of a firearm.
Buck Adam Nickel, 41, attempted to steal a tractor being used by another couple to help people evacuate from the area but were caught by deputies on September 11
The other couple got a flat tire on the trailer they were using to help others
They unhooked the trailer and went to get supplies to fix the tire, leaving the trailer on Judd Road in Eagle Creek, where Nickel and Tipton tried to pick it up
Nickel also had a concealed .357 handgun, deputies discovered
Just minutes earlier, deputies had detained James Dean Shotwell, 34, and Sandy Faye Lenox, 34, after receiving reports of two suspicious individuals possibly walking onto a property on Ringo Road, near Mulino.
They found the suspects with two gas-powered generators, a box of hand tools including a cordless drill, two leaf blowers, and at least one gas can from a neighboring property that they had stolen.
They were charged with Theft I and Burglary II.
Sandy Faye Lenox, 34, being placed under arrest for burglary
Deputies found James Dean Shotwell, 34, and Sandy Faye Lenox, 34 in possession of these stolen goods after receiving reports of two suspicious individuals walking onto a property
On September 15, Paul Theodore Nichols, 32, and Taleina Renee Johnson, 32, were also charged with theft after they found drugs and stolen items in their car.
Both of the suspects were well known to authorities.
In another tragic incident, a couple in the county was forced to watch on a livestream as thieves broke into the home they had evacuated just days earlier.
Tracy and Marvin Johnson, who live in the unincorporated hamlet of Beavercreek in Clackamas County, recalled for KION 6 News how they watched the robbery unfold on their doorbell camera.
The suspects fled before police arrived.
As well as the arrests, there were 54 criminal reports taken in these evacuation zones and 743 self-initiated activity calls in Clackamas County during those two weeks.
These included 96 subject stops, 99 premise checks, 295 traffic stops, and 253 suspicious vehicle stops.
Paul Theodore Nichols, 32, was charged with theft on September 15
K9 Grimm was present at the call and found methamphetamine in Johnson’s purse
The yard tools found in Nichols’ car had been reported stolen
Deputies also carried out 94 welfare checks and unaccounted person follow-ups as the state struggles to push back the historic wildfires.
In contrast, during the same time period in 2019, deputies only made 13 arrests in these same patrol areas, completed 16 crime reports, engaged in 148 self-initiated activities, and made 28 welfare checks and follow-ups.
Clackamas County is not the only area that has faced the threat of looters as the wildfires worsened.
In Marion County, two men were charged with looting properties that were evacuated by owners fleeing the deadly wildfire.
The escalating tensions and fear of crime have seen local residents begin posting signs bearing slogans like, ‘You loot, we shoot’ outside of their homes
Police in Oregon have arrested a string of suspected looters during the ongoing wildfires, as cops claim the criminals are making bogus 911 calls to divert officers elsewhere
Anthony Travis Bodda, 21, and Alexander Justin Jones, 36, were arrested on September 10 after they allegedly led law enforcement officials on a high-speed chase in fire-ravaged Santiam Canyon.
As of Tuesday afternoon, close to one million acres had burned across the state since September 8, 2,584 acres of which was in Clackamas County.
It is the third-most populous county in the state with 75,000 residents and borders nearby Multnomah County, where Portland is located.
There have been nine confirmed fatalities and five missing persons reported across the state, as well as at least 1,556 structures being destroyed.
There were ten active fires on Tuesday, down from eleven on Monday.
There were still ten active fires in Oregon as of Monday
The fires have also left many residents with air quality warnings
On Tuesday, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management was forced to dispel rumors that Antifa were starting fires in the state.
‘Any disaster really starts up the rumor mill spinning whether it’s where the fires are going to go, donations that are needed that can inundate emergency management with stuff that just adds to the complexity of the response,’ Director Andrew Phelps told Fox.
‘Rumors are never helpful, we always ask folks to get their information directly from local government sources and we rely on the accurate reporting of news partners across the state and around the country to get accurate and timely information out to the public to help us do our jobs, to control rumors and get accurate information.’
He added that the recovery from the fires will take years and that it’s going to be a long-haul fight to get the fires in check.
Phelps said that recent wetter weather had helped somewhat but had also prevented aerial firefighting from going ahead.
The fires are also having an impact on air quality in the area as smoke worsens.