Portland Man Charged With Setting Fire to Justice Center, Faces Up to 20 Years

July 28, 2020 Updated: July 29, 2020

A Portland man was charged on Tuesday for arson aimed at the city’s Justice Center. If convicted, he faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a mandatory sentence of 5 years.

Edward Thomas Schinzing was charged with intentionally setting fire to the Justice Center on May 29. He appeared in federal court for the first time on Tuesday, and will now await further court proceedings.

The Justice Center, which houses the Multnomah County Detention Center and the Portland Police Bureau headquarters, is owned by Multnomah County and the City of Portland.

Court documents say the 32-year-old Schinzing entered the Corrections Records Office near the northwest corner of the facility with a group of rioters, totaling about 30 people, around 11 p.m. through windows that several people had broken.

After some employees of the office fled for safety, the rioters spray-painted parts of the office, damaged various items including computers and other office equipment and furniture, and started fires, the documents said, citing surveillance videos and photos of the incident.

Oregon’s top federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams, announced in a release that Schinzing was identified after comparing the surveillance footage with a jail booking photo and a distinctive tattoo of his last name across his upper back.

Schinzing was captured on video spreading fire in the office by lighting papers on fire and moving the lit papers into a drawer of a cubicle.

The building’s fire sprinkler system activated and put out the fires by 11:08 p.m., around the time that police arrived and took over the area.

Rioters have been targeting government properties amid weeks of violent protests in the city since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

On a daily basis, peaceful protests take place during the day, while violent riots start after midnight, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) told reporters at a recent press conference. The two distinct events continue to generate controversy with media outlets conflating federal response to the violent rioters as having targeted peaceful protesters.

The Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse has been a key target for protesters in recent weeks. Federal agents sent to the city as reinforcements to protect federal properties have faced multiple attacks from rioters.

rioter in portland
A rioter kicks an entrance to the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse after federal officers took shelter inside, in Portland, Ore., on July 21, 2020. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Protesters have a number of demands, some of which were projected on the Justice Center on July 22. The demands include defunding the Portland Police by at least 50 percent, releasing all protesters from jail, and for all federal agents to leave the city.

U.S. Attorney Williams on Monday condemned the riots, saying that the nightly violence “cannot continue.”

“It is absolutely destroying the soul of our city,” he said in a press call, reported Oregon Live.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty announced on Monday that they are seeking to meet with DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf to discuss a cease-fire and a removal of federal forces from Portland. The move marks an about-face from earlier in July, when Wheeler indicated that he would not meet with Wolf even if he was invited.

Bowen Xiao and Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.

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