A video circulating on Twitter and YouTube show a pair of Clackamas County sheriff's deputies engaging with a member of the public and telling them anti-fascist activists have been starting fires in the area.
The sheriff's office has confirmed the basics of the video, and the as-yet-unnamed deputy has been placed on leave.
Statements made by the deputy in the video contradict the official line from Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts, which he has expressed on social media and in press conferences over the past 48 hours, stating there is no evidence that "antifa" or any other groups have organized arson strikes in rural areas of Clackamas County.
"Antifa" is a term for some loosely affiliated left-wing activists who sometimes identify themselves as "anti-fascist."
The video is also at odds with messaging from the FBI's Portland field office, which released a statement Friday, Sept. 11, saying that "the FBI has investigated several such reports and found them to be untrue."
The time-stamped video from 3:51 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, from YouTuber "Robert West" shows a man conversing with a sheriff's deputy in an Estacada parking lot near the intersection of Highway 224 and Highway 211.
West's YouTube account boasts more than 15,000 subscribers and hundreds of videos of political rallies including clashes between left- and right-wing activists in Portland, Salem and beyond.
The deputy — who identifies himself as Mark — asks the videographer what he knows about suspected antifa activity in the area. The videographer gives some descriptions of rumors he's heard in the area of stockpiled explosives and other incendiary devices.
"What I'm worried about is there are people stashing stuff, right, and it means they're going to go in preparation," the deputy said. "I don't want to sound like some 'doomsdayer,' but it's getting serious. We need the public's help on this."
The second deputy, who speaks from outside of the camera's view, tells the videographer that there are people who have refused to leave their homes, and if more fires are ignited by arsonists it could end in deaths.
"Antifa motherf******s are out causing hell," the deputy said. "And there are a lot of lives at stake, and a lot of people's property at stake because these guys have got some vendetta."
The first deputy also begs the videographer not to show where the firefighters are "for their safety" against antifa.
Around 10:50 a.m., the sheriff's office acknowledged the video and said the deputy has been placed on administrative leave.
"As soon as I was made aware of this incident, I moved swiftly to place this deputy on leave while we investigate," Sheriff Roberts said via a press release. "The Sheriff's Office mission is to provide calm and safety especially during unprecedented times such as these. I expect nothing less of our deputies, and apologize to all in our community."
According to the release, the deputy was "on-duty and in uniform" when he made "inappropriate statements."
"Clackamas County is currently in a state of emergency due to several wildfires in our county," the release reads. "It appears the deputy was aware he made these comments while on video. At the time of the comments, the deputy was tasked with ensuring that residents knew of the wildfire hazards while he was patrolling the area.
"This deputy has been placed on administrative leave while our Professional Standards Unit investigates this potential violation of policy."
The Clackamas County Peace Officers Association, the union that represents sheriff's deputies, released a statement Saturday afternoon. The statement focused on the fact that many county residents, business owners and employees, including its first responders, have dealt with a severe amount of trauma this week due to the fires.
"This morning, a video from a few days ago surfaced in which one of our deputies is heard speaking freely with a community member about the community's understandable fear of looting and other criminal acts as our County burns," the union wrote.
"A full and fair investigation will be conducted by the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office to understand the deputy's mindset when he made his comments. But let's not get distracted by a single, sensationalized, five-minute video of one of the hundreds of first responders working around the clock in our County. We need to fight the actual fires that are burning in our County. Let's not stoke unnecessary flames."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.