An 18-year-old man made his first appearance in federal court Friday on an arson allegation, accused of lighting and throwing a large firework Tuesday over the fence at the front of the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse in downtown Portland.
The firework struck protective wood covering the entrance and set it on fire, federal authorities said.
Gabriel Agard-Berryhill turned himself in to authorities on Thursday.
Agard-Berryhill told federal officers that an unknown man in a ski mask handed him what he thought was a spinner-type firework that would rotate with varied colors when lit.
Agard-Berryhill said he was going to light it and throw it in the area of Southwest Third Avenue, but others told him that some people in the crowd have post-traumatic stress from tear gas launched by federal officers and directed him instead to throw it over the fence toward the courthouse.
He admitted he lit the device, described as the size of a piece of chalk, and threw it over the fence, according to Amanda Johnson, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Agard-Berryhill said he was shocked to hear the “concussive” sound that it produced and it scared him, Johnson wrote in an affidavit. He told federal officers he didn’t intend to hurt anyone.
The device rolled or bounced to the base of wood placed on the front glass entry and walls of the downtown courthouse for protection, the affidavit says.
About three seconds later, a large flash occurred, Johnson wrote in the affidavit.
Agard-Berryhill was partially identified through a YouTube video that captured the clothing he was wearing and a post on social media where his grandmother noted that she bought the tactical vest he was seen wearing in photos from a recent night at the downtown protests, according to the affidavit.
“I got this for my grandson who’s a protestor downtown, he uses it every night and says it does the job,” “grammaf” wrote in a website review of the vest with a photo of Agard-Berryhill.
U.S. marshals contacted a probation officer from the Oregon Youth Authority’s North Valley office, where Agard-Berryhill had been supervised for an unspecified felony offense, according to court records.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jolie A. Russo allowed Agard-Berryhill to be released. He must not come within a five-block radius of the courthouse at any time of the day or night while his case is pending.
If convicted, arson beings a minimum mandatory sentence of five years and a maximum potential sentence of 20 years.
— Maxine Bernstein
Email at firstname.lastname@example.org; 503-221-8212
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