News and Commentary

Video Shows Arsonist Torching Restaurant After Owner’s Brother Criticized Antifa Violence, Arrest Made
Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office

Thirty-eight-year-old Jennifer Lynn Cole was arrested Friday in connection to the torching of Portland business Reo’s Ribs last month.

According to the county’s sheriff’s office, Cole was booked at the Multnomah County Detention Center on an Arson II charge, a Class C felony, and is being held on $5,000 bail.

“Reo’s Ribs, a restaurant in Portland, was destroyed in a fire overnight,” reported Andy Ngo on November 23, the night of the arson attack. “It is next to the businesses that were vandalized last week by antifa. The owner gave an interview where he was critical of that vandalism against his neighbors.”

Ngo has long-reported on Antifa violence, particularly in Portland. Numerous threats have been made against Ngo by Antifa for his reporting; the journalist has also been doxxed and was physically assaulted by the group last summer.

Surveillance footage, obtained earlier this month by KOIN CBS6 News, shows the attack.

“A Portland restaurant owner critical of antifa’s mass vandalism on Sandy Blvd. had his business burned down shortly after making the comments,” Ngo said. “Now investigators are saying the fire was an arson attack. This is the surveillance video.”

Prior to the incident, Ricky Varnado, the brother of Reo’s Ribs owner Reo Varnado, criticized the destruction of nearby businesses by left-wing agitators known as Antifa, or so-called anti-fascists well-known for violence.

“I just hope whoever is doing this, they would catch the people who’s doing it and be prosecuted for what they’ve done,” Ricky said. “I mean, because this is really a sad time of the year they are doing this, with the coronavirus epidemic that’s going on, people are having a hard time trying to make it in life and this makes it even worse.”

Ricky’s comments were made on Saturday, November 21; Reo’s Ribs was up in flames two days later.

It’s unclear if Reo, in addition to Ricky, made comments about the Antifa violence, as Ngo outlined via Twitter.

“Fire Investigators report that the arson suspect involved in a fire at Reo’s Ribs, has been apprehended by [Portland Police]last night on Arson II charges,” Portland Fire&Rescue posted Saturday. “The arrest came from a citizen tip who recognized the suspect from the photo released by media.”

“The fire happened in the early morning hours of November 23, at Reo’s Ribs on Northeast Sandy Boulevard in Portland’s Hollywood district,” reported KOIN CBS6 News. “Crews arrived to smoke coming from the back of the building and discovered flames both on the exterior and interior. The blaze was quickly extinguished and no injuries were reported.”

Back in 2017, the news station noted, Reo’s Ribs was destroyed in another fire. “That fire was determined to be accidental, but owner Reo Varnado said at the time he did not believe that,” the report said.

Reo suggested at the time that he might have been targeted for being black. The businessman said “he received specific threats and some involved race,” KOIN CBS6 News reported at the time. “He said race was a factor when he left his previous Southwest Portland location amid complaints of smoke from his BBQ smokers.”

“It makes me think about my past when I was growing up in Mississippi,” the restaurant owner said. “Because I’ve seen it happen so many times back there. It gives me flashbacks.”

Related: I Was In Antifa. Their Violence Won’t Stop With 2020.

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