Arson suspect ‘may have blacked out,’ court docs say

Richard D. Simms Jr. shown in a jail booking photo provided by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office. (KOIN).
Richard D. Simms Jr. shown in a jail booking photo provided by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office. (KOIN).

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) – The 20-year-old man accused of setting six fires on purpose told investigators he may have “blacked out,” and didn’t know if he was responsible, court documents state.

Richard David Simms Jr. appeared in Multnomah County Circuit Court Tuesday and was arraigned on nine counts of arson. Six of the counts are first-degree arson. The other three are second-degree arson. The six counts of first-degree arson are considered Measure 11 crimes because there was a threat of serious physical injury to the people inside the homes.

When Simms was interviewed by detectives Monday morning, he told them he lives one block away from where the first fire was reported, according to the documents.

Simms claimed “not to know if he was responsible for setting all of the fires and said that he could not remember and may have blacked out,” the documents state.

Arson investigators said firefighters responded to all six separate fires between 3:15 – 4:28 a.m. All of the fires were within a few blocks of each other in the Portsmouth neighborhood of North Portland.

In one of the fires, police said a Mercedes Benz sedan had been set on fire near the intersection of North Haven and North Newark. Firefighters said the fire appeared to have been set on the passenger side of the vehicle and was intentionally set, court documents state. The loss of the vehicle is estimated at $3,500.

Firefighters also responded to the 8900 block of North Hodge Street where they found a pick up on fire. The fire was intentionally set, court documents state. The pick up was destroyed. The flames spread to the adjacent house. There were two people sleeping inside at the time of the fire, court documents state. Both were able to safely evacuate. The damage to the pick up is estimated at $30,000, court documents state.

Detective Joe Luiz reviewed surveillance video from the 8700 block of North Portsmouth. The video shows a man likely in his 20s wearing a two-toned hooded jacket starting a fire on the porch.

Portland Police officer Daniel Hanes later told police that he “recognized the suspect” and said that he had contacted with the man in the hooded jacket about four hours before the first fire was reported, and that the suspect was wearing the same two-toned jacket, court documents state.

A court appointed attorney for Simms Jr. entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. The case is expected to be presented before a grand jury.

Simms is scheduled to be back in court later this month. His bail is set at more than $1 million.

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