The suspect, identified as longtime BLM rioter Jeffrey Acord, claimed he had nothing to do with the fire, which had burned about an acre and a half before responders from Central Pierce Fire & Rescue put it out.
The suspect claimed that he was looking for a camera case that flew out of his backpack while biking the previous day to Bellevue. But a Fife police officer who pulled over after seeing the fire countered this alibi.
The officer explained that the fire had been burning next to a pickup truck in the median. When the officer stopped, the truck drove off. He said he decided to follow the truck as it looked suspicious.
The suspect was then apprehended, at which point he started live-streaming the event on Facebook. “It looks like a fire literally just started,” he said in the video, which now has over 155,000 views on his profile page.
Before the video cut out, he could be heard explaining that he was just calling in to report the fire and that the police have nothing to work with to implicate him in the fire.
However, he was still arrested on a charge of second-degree reckless burning. Captain Jason Visnaw of the Puyallup Police said that the officers have probable reason to believe he had started the fire.
Trooper Ryan Burke with the Washington State Patrol said on Twitter that the suspect had allegedly set the grass on fire. In Washington, reckless burning charges could lead to jail time and substantial fines.
The suspect was able to post the $1,000 bail the night he was booked. However, he was arrested again that same night after a surveillance video showed him breaking into a gas station not far from the Puyallup jail.
Visnaw expressed his concerns over the deliberate starting of fires. The selfish people who are starting fires on purpose should consider its impact on others and the possible harm and destruction it could bring, he said.
Suspect has prior criminal charges
This isn’t the first time that Acord has made headlines. In 2014, Seattle Police arrested him during a protest after officers found weapons, ammunition and explosives in his car and backpack, according to Seattle Times.
He was then charged with possession of a loaded concealed weapon without a permit, as well as concealing a dangerous 7-inch knife and illegal possession of fireworks. His bail was set at $10,000.
He himself had alluded to this incident in his Facebook video, explaining to police that the case was a misunderstanding and that he was crucified for it.
BLM activists had organized the protest he attended in response to the court decision that Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson will not face federal charges for his fatal shooting of an unarmed Black teenager.
In response to circulating rumors online that arsonists are behind some of the major fires creeping through Washington, State Representative Jim Walsh said that officials have good evidence this isn’t the case.
Several of the major fires in Washington are human-made but are not the result of arson, he clarified in a statement. However, he admitted that the larger fires burning in neighboring Oregon seem suspicious.
People in Washington are also reporting suspicious behavior on the part of strangers and visitors in their areas, he added. (Related: Seattle police officers subjected to hail of explosives during Antifa, BLM riots.)
Despite this, Walsh said that the state’s focus on the present is on containing the fires and keeping people safe. There will be time later to investigate the origins of suspicious fires.
Read the latest articles on the ongoing California, Oregon and Washington wildfires at Environ.news.