Police have arrested 27-year-old Cameron David Storer, a man who also claims to go by Nicolette Fait, for allegedly setting fire to the church. The office of Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt referred to Storer using “they” pronouns in a press release detailing the charges.
Storer was charged with two counts of first-degree arson, one count of second-degree arson, and two counts of second-degree burglary.
Demolition of the 3,000-square-foot Old Portland Korean Church, which opened in 1905, began Friday after the three-alarm fire on Tuesday. The decision to demo the church came after Portland Fire and Rescue determined from drone footage that the building had sustained too much structural damage to be saved.
Out of control! pic.twitter.com/jz2UeIEQfw
— R Renk (@RRenk3) January 4, 2023
Workers toppled the 100-year-old steeple of the church as local preservationists stood by hoping to spare portions of the church. “They’re not very confident that those will be salvageable once the building gets knocked over,” Val Ballestrem, of the local Architectural Heritage Center, told KPTV. “Having a piece from the building really enforces our ability to tell that story.”
The preservationists hope to save stained glass windows, and the church’s cornerstone, and the weathervane.
The steeple of a historic Portland church came crashing down Friday afternoon. The building was more than a century old when an arsonist set a three-alarm fire that tore through the building Tuesday evening. pic.twitter.com/2YE5NtaOQK
— FOX 12 Oregon (@fox12oregon) January 6, 2023
“What was really interesting was how the main tower flexed. They pushed it pretty hard and it’s a pretty big machine and so it flexed before it fell, they really had to work hard. Whoever is operating that crane really has an unbelievable skill set to see how he will maneuver get stuff to where he needed and then push in the right direction. It’s a horrible thing to have happen but to see them take it down is pretty impressive,” local Hank Schottland said.
Before the fire, the church had not been actively used in 10 years, according to local authorities. Authorities also said that Storer wanted to “take credit” and claimed to use a Bic lighter to start the fire.
Storer, who reportedly has a history of schizophrenia, told police that voices in his head promised to “mutilate” him if he did not burn the church, according to the district attorney’s office.
Police said Storer also claimed to take 10 oxycodone per day from another injury.