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After eviction notice and series of arrests, suspect in SW Portland apartment fire was still in the building

A judge had ordered Garrett Repp to vacate the building by May 8, and deputies were given the go-ahead to force him out two days later. The fire broke out May 16.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Garrett Repp, the man accused of setting the fire that destroyed The May apartments in Southwest Portland on May 16, was facing eviction from the building for nonpayment, court documents show. He'd also been arrested on the day of the fire before being released.

The 113-year-old building was completely gutted in the massive blaze last week. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries and all residents of the building were displaced.

Repp, 30, was a resident of The May apartments. He was arrested Thursday night and faces charges of first-degree arson, reckless endangering of another person and first-degree criminal mischief.

RELATED: Tenant arrested for arson after large Southwest Portland apartment building fire

Court documents show that SkyNat Property Management filed an eviction complaint against Repp on March 8. A few weeks earlier, the company had given Repp a 72-hour notice of nonpayment. At that point, he owed $3,180 in past-due rent for December, January and February, plus $225 in late fees.

By the end of March, the court had ruled against Repp by default. There's no indication that he tried to argue his case in court. He was later ordered to move out by May 8, but court documents show that deputies were unable to contact Repp in their first attempt to serve the eviction notice. It was instead posted inside the building, according to the responding deputy.

On May 10, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office was granted a writ of execution to forcibly remove Repp, if necessary. But civil court documents don't indicate whether any attempt was made before the fire.

"There's a lot of people who let this happen, there's a lot of people who assisted him through neglect, by default, and these people need to be held accountable," said Gabriella Precious Kielhorn, one of the building's displaced residents.

While the eviction proceedings were going on, Repp was arrested four times over the space of five months for criminal trespass, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.

According to a probable cause affidavit, one of Repp's recent arrests for criminal trespass came after he allegedly broke into an ex-girlfriend's apartment in Northwest Portland on April 21 and locked the door behind him. After he refused police orders to exit the apartment, officers had to use a fireman's ax to break down the door and arrest him.

"He had barricaded himself into her unit," Wesley Mahan, superintendent of the woman's building, told KGW. "She wasn't there but her door was open, and when I approached him and ordered him to get out he stared at me and wouldn't move."

Repp was booked and released the next day, only to re-enter the lobby of the police building, where he started punching and kicking glass doors while demanding the return of his belongings. He left the lobby and was later seen on security cameras running down a secure vehicle ramp and was eventually found by the jail's underground entrance, where he was arrested for second-degree criminal trespass.

"Oh he's very troubled," Mahan added. "I'm not a psychologist but I'd use the term sociopath. He's really big, big-time trouble."

On May 15, the day before the May apartments fire, a judge granted a restraining order against Repp filed by his ex-girlfriend, according to the Oregonian.

Public records obtained by KGW indicate firefighters responded to the May Apartments more than 30 times since November 2022. Half of those responses came after someone intentionally pulled a fire alarm, with the most recent one just two days before the fire. The public records suggest all 16 of those intentional fire alarms were done for malicious or mischievous reasons.

RELATED: Firefighters had frequent calls to Southwest Portland apartment building before fire that destroyed it

Several residents told KGW reporters on the day of the fire that Repp had pulled fire alarms at the May Apartments multiple times since he moved in.

"He was allowed to do this, they gave him the room, they gave him the breathing room," Kielhorn said.

Criminal court documents show that Repp was arrested on the day of the fire and charged with first-degree criminal mischief. The Oregonian reported that it was for allegedly "breaking through the wall of his apartment" to get into the vacant unit next door.

Repp was released later that day and ordered to show up in court the next day, May 17. It's unclear where his arrest and release fell in the timeline of when the fire started, and this case has since been closed.

"I am very good at loss, this isn't the first time I've lost everything," said Kielhorn. "This one takes the cake being the fact it was preventable, predictable, just clear as day. You know he's just conditioning everyone to not care when he actually does it, that's exactly what he was doing."

Repp made his first appearance in court on Friday for arraignment, entering an initial plea of not guilty. He's being held without bail pending further court proceedings, with an appearance on the calendar for June 6. 

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