Denny’s fire attack suspect held on $500k bail

DeShaun James Swanger was arrested about 24 hours after the attack

DeShaun Swanger, 24, in his first court appearance in Clackamas County on April 21, 2017. (KOIN)
DeShaun Swanger, 24, in his first court appearance in Clackamas County on April 21, 2017. (KOIN)

OREGON CITY, Ore. (KOIN) — DeShaun James Swanger, accused of throwing gasoline on a customer at Denny’s and lighting him on fire, made his first court appearance Friday afternoon in Clackamas County.

Swanger, 24, was arraigned in Oregon City on a charge of aggravated attempted murder. He’s being held on a $500,000 bail and ordered to have no contact with the victim.

He was arrested Thursday night following an intense day-long investigation after Scott Ranstrum was set ablaze Wednesday evening inside the Denny’s in Happy Valley. Ranstrum, 69, remains in critical condition.

Swanger was arrested outside the Mountain View Recovery Home on Sunnyside Street, where he was staying. Neighbors who spoke with KOIN 6 News said they were impacted by the arrest, including one woman who used to wave at Swanger on her daily walks.

“I heard the commotion,” neighbor Pat Lofting said. “I came outside, the police told me to go inside. The dogs were going nuts.”

Another neighbor, Melaney Cave, said she knew the arrest “probably had something to do with Denny’s. It was just pretty scary because we have kids and there are alot of children in the neighborhood.”

Two incidents connected?

DeShaun Swanger, 24, in file mugshots from 2013-2016. (CCSO/MCSO)

The incident happened around 9 p.m. Wednesday night when Swanger allegedly went into the Denny’s restaurant and sat down in a booth next to Ranstrum.

Video from the incident, which hasn’t been released to the public, shows the suspect dumping an “unknown liquid” and item on the victim, causing him to catch fire.

Days before Ranstrum was set on fire, a similar incident took place in a theater at Clackamas Town Center.

Although investigators said they’re looking into both incidents, they have not officially confirmed whether they believe the same suspect is sought for both.

But a 27-year-old Portland woman told KOIN 6 News she is convinced the suspect in the Denny’s attack is the same person she saw in the theater Sunday night.

This man is wanted in connection with setting a customer at Denny’s in Happy Valley on fire, then running out of the restaurant on April 19, 2017. (Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office)

In the second half of the movie, she said she noticed a spark coming from a guy sitting just a few seats over. At first, she said, she thought the guy was smoking.

“Seconds later it was a full pack of matches that was lit up ,and at that point you could see and he purposely put it right in front of his face. You could see his expression,” she told KOIN 6 News. “And then he threw the gasoline. At that point matches were thrown but they didn’t light up.”

Clackamas County Sgt. Brian Jensen told KOIN 6 News “a subject had what we think is gasoline splashed on them.” Jensen cautioned the person splashed “was not cooperative with our deputies and apparently found the situation humorous.”

That person also “refused to press any charges and only gave a vague description of a ‘suspect,’” according to Jensen.

The witness told KOIN 6 News the jawline of the Denny’s suspect “is what sticks out the most to me, kind of like the mouth area. I’m pretty certain that that’s the same guy.”

DeShaun James Swanger in a mug shot from April 20, 2017 and a surveillance photo from the day before (Clackamas County Sheriff's Office)
DeShaun James Swanger in a mug shot from April 20, 2017 and a surveillance photo from the day before (Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office)