Clues from unexploded firebomb lead to charges in Portland
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — During a Black Lives Matter protest on Sept. 21, a Portland police officer was sitting in a vehicle used to broadcast warnings and loud noise at protesters when he saw a burning object sailing through the air toward him.
The officer jumped out of the car and found a beer growler made into a Molotov cocktail, a burned rag stuffed into its mouth. The firebomb had not gone off.
According to court records, that bottle produced key evidence that helped lead to charges against an Indiana man who authorities said had come to Portland for protests.
A previously secret 28-count indictment, announced Monday, charges Malik Muhammed with attempted aggravated murder, attempted assault in the first degree, attempted murder in the first degree, unlawful manufacture of a destructive device and other crimes.
It is one of the most serious court cases to stem from the prolonged protests that rocked Portland last year.
Muhammed, 24, was arrested on Friday and is in an Indiana jail. Joshua Pond, listed on court documents as Muhammed's attorney, said he had no comment on behalf of his client.
Officers examined the unexploded firebomb. A price tag allowed them to trace the beer growler to the store where it had been purchased. Store video showed Muhammed and his girlfriend, buying growlers and bats, Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Keven Demer said in an affidavit.
DNA samples from the unexploded firebomb had “an extremely strong comparison” to Muhammed, Demer said.
On Sept. 23, during a protest at the Justice Center building in downtown Portland, another Molotov cocktail was thrown. This one exploded when it hit the ground, creating a large fireball and spraying flames onto the leg of an officer, Demer said. Multiple videos show Muhammed throwing the device, he added.
“Anyone who thinks they can get away with trying to murder police officers and destroy this city should think again,” Police Chief Chuck Lovell said in a statement announcing Muhammed's arrest. ”More investigations are underway."
FBI agents apparently blended in with protesters in an attempt to pinpoint those who were violent.
During a protest on Oct. 11, FBI agents in plainclothes saw Muhammed, dressed all in black but wearing distinctive red-and-gray gloves, use a metal baton to break windows of the Oregon Historical Society, Portland State University and several businesses, Demer's sworn statement says.
The information was relayed to police officers. They chased the suspect, who allegedly ditched a loaded pistol, and was found with a loaded magazine in his pocket that fit the gun, authorities said. Unlawful possession of a firearm is another of the charges Muhammed faces.
Demer noted that Muhammed could face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years if convicted and is a flight risk. He asked the court to set bail at $3 million.
Judge Leslie Bottomly denied the request and instead ordered that Muhammed be held.