Docs: Man tries to set hotel gas pipe on fire, ‘I thought it was the FEDS’

Crime

Crime spree left several victims rattled in Portland's Pearl District

Jett Avery Thomas, 36, was arrested Sept. 10, 2020 after an alleged crime spree in the Pearl District (Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Police arrested a man accused of setting fire to a cloth wrapped around a natural gas pipe connected to a hotel in the Pearl District last week, the first reported act in a bizarre crime spree.

Thursday morning, Sept. 10, Portland Fire & Rescue crews were called to the Marriott Residence Inn on Northwest 9th Street, where they spoke with a woman who said she saw a man next to the natural gas pipe and meter that connects to the side of the hotel. The witness allegedly said she saw what looked like a blanket, on fire, wrapped around the pipe. The witness said at one point the material fell off and the man replaced it, according to court documents.

A hotel employee had already extinguished the fire by the time firefighters got there. The employee said the hotel was about 40% occupied and the room opposite the “wall of the fire was currently occupied,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

A street view of the Mariott Residence Inn in the Pearl District, as seen in June 2019 (Google Maps)

Portland Police also responded and spoke with a man who said he was standing in the courtyard of the hotel when he saw a man trying to get into his car. The witness yelled at the suspect who allegedly kicked his car, denting it, and knocking off the backup sensor.

Police were provided photos of the fire on the side of the hotel and the man walking away, according to court documents.

Just minutes after crews arrived at the hotel, a different officer responded to a weapons threat a few blocks away on Northwest Marshall Street. A woman said she was sitting in her car when a man walked up, started yelling, then threw a rock at her windshield and walked away.

Nearby, the manager of a coffee shop said he saw a man throw a rock into the door, breaking the glass, according to police.

Investigators also spoke with a man who said he was walking to work nearby when he noticed someone following him. The suspect allegedly asked, “Who’s Opal?” and later said, “I’m going to stab you.” The victim said he saw the other man had a pair of white-handled scissors and continued to say odd things while following him. The victim eventually escaped into his work building, but said he continued to see the suspect harassing other people outside.

Ultimately, police arrested Jett Avery Thomas, 36, near Northwest 14th and Quimby, according to court documents. He had a pair of scissors with a white handle and was identified by all three victims as the man they had seen, according to the affidavit.

“I think I messed up … I thought it was the FEDS, but I know better than that.”

During his ride to jail, Thomas allegedly said, “I think I messed up. I was leaving and then I perceived a threat.” When the officer asked who was threatening, Thomas allegedly responded, “I thought it was the FEDS, but I know better than that,” according to court documents.

Thomas is still in custody as of Sunday morning, on charges of first-degree arson, unlawful use of a weapon, and multiple counts of menacing and criminal mischief. Court records also suggest he is transient and has mental health problems. Thomas has a long criminal history, including assault, burglary, and drug possession convictions, according to court records.

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