PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A fire that damaged an SUV early Thursday morning in Keizer is thought to have been set intentionally.
Firefighters found a red 2008 Ford Explorer on fire in a driveway in the 4700 block of 18th Avenue NE at about 1:30 a.m. and quickly extinguished the flames.
Detectives launched an arson investigation based on evidence at the scene, officers said.
The Keizer Police Department said the fire is likely related to an argument reported Wednesday evening between the victim of the car fire and several other people.
The fire happened near a memorial at Salem Parkway and Cherry Avenue NE that was set up in memory of 3 teens killed in a crash on June 2.
Officials said the car fire victim was picking up items at the memorial, which caught the attention of the crash victims’ families.
The car fire victim, who was a stranger to the families, told the relatives that he was there to “clean up” and throw things away, according to authorities. His actions upset the families, who reported the matter to police.
Officers arrived at the scene and decided the memorial wasn’t a danger to the public, didn’t create an obstacle for pedestrians and that the man didn’t have a legal duty to throw any of the memorial items away. They stayed at the scene until everyone involved went their separate ways.
The Ford was reported to be on fire several hours later.
KOIN 6 News spoke with Tammy and Jack Watt, the parents of Trinity Watt, at the memorial site on Thursday.
The grieving parents said they’re angry that a stranger would remove items from the memorial.
Tammy Watt said she has been visiting the memorial nearly every day since her daughter was killed because it helps her process the situation. She said she tried to talk to the man who removed things from the site.
“I let him know that this is not garbage — this is a memorial for our daughters that were murdered and he didn’t care,” she said.
All of the involved families denied any connection to the suspected car arson.
“It’s karma, it’s ju-ju,” Tammy Watts said. “It is what it is, but this is our memorial and he has no business to do that.”
A spokesperson for the family of the man who removed items from the memorial site apologized in a Facebook post.
“The actions of others do not have to determine your own actions. Our family sincerely apologizes for the actions of a member of our family. We placed some items from our hearts at the memorial site today. A beautiful cross, angel, stepping stone, flower pot and butterfly. While there, we were able hug one of the moms and apologize from our family. We are very hurt as there has been so much loss in our family. We truly know what grieving families feel and this sort of action during a grieving time would be so hurtful. We are so sorry.”