PORTLAND, Ore. -- Dressed in a black, jail-issued jumpsuit, Deshaun Swanger said very little during his appearance before a Clackamas County judge Friday afternoon, only responding, “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am” to questions from the public defender.
Minutes later, he said nothing as the judge handed down his $500,000 bail on a sole charge of attempted murder.
Investigators say Swanger is the man, seen in restaurant surveillance video, who walked into a Happy Valley Denny’s Wednesday night, sat down and doused the stranger next to him with gasoline.
He then, deputies say, lit that stranger on fire.
Scott Ranstrom, a 69-year-old Vietnam veteran, remained in critical condition Friday evening in Legacy Emanuel’s burn unit.
“I'm glad they got him,” said Ranstrom’s sister Leslie Kurtz. “I was hoping they'd catch somebody that evil.”
While Swanger is a perfect stranger to Kurtz and her family, he’s no stranger to the justice system.
His rap sheet lists more than a dozen priors, dating back more than six years. Some of the more severe charges include first degree burglary, possession of a weapon by a felon and fourth-degree assault.
Swanger was living in a transitional home on Southeast Sunnyside Drive, operated by Mountain View Recovery, a Portland-based nonprofit that helps ex-cons get back on their feet.
A staff member told KGW the group operates eight similar homes in the Portland area. They interview everyone who moves in “screening for sex offenders and arsonists.”
That staffer wouldn’t confirm how long Swanger had been living there but added, during his interview, he raised “zero red flags."
Pat Lofting lives next door to the Mountain View transitional home and said she would see Swanger walking, adding he was always polite and quiet.
She added Wednesday night, she saw surveillance images of the then unknown suspect, but didn’t want to believe her neighbor was the man deputies were looking for.
“I'd just sort of wave to him and sometimes he'd wave to me,” she said. “That's why I had hoped it wasn't who I saw walking down the street.”
But when authorities swarmed her neighborhood 24 hours later and arrested Swanger in the street, Lofting had a different thought.
“It flashed through my mind. He could have done that to me,” she said. “That did flash through my mind.”
Swanger is being held in the Clackamas County Jail on $500,000 bail. He’s due back in court on April 28.
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