Tattoo Leads to Arrest of Man Who Allegedly Set Fire Inside Justice Center During Portland Protests

Edward Thomas Schinzing is the first to face federal charges for damaging the Justice Center, a state and county-owned property, on May 29

  • Updated

Police tracked down a 32-year-old man suspected of setting a fire inside Portland's Justice Center with the help of an image of his back tattoo that had his last name imprinted. However, it took exactly two months for the police to trace the man, who now has become the first to face federal charges of damaging the Justice Center, a state and county-owned building.

Edward Thomas Schinzing allegedly set a fire inside the Justice Center on May 29 at the start of two months of protests in Portland. At the time of the fire, the jail had around 300 inmates, whose lives were put at risk although no deaths were reported. If proved guilty, Schinzing can end up serving years in jail for damaging federal property.

Arrested at Last

Edward Thomas Schinzing
Edward Thomas Schinzing setting fire inside Portland's Justice Center Department of Justice

According to authorities, Schinzing was part of a group of 30 protesters during the early days of George Floyd protests in Portland. As the group arrived at the Justice Center, which is also home to the Portland Police Bureau headquarters, some people from the group started breaking the windows near the Corrections Records Office portion of the building.

They entered the building and spray-painted portions of the office and damaged the computers and furniture and started a fire. An investigation was launched the next day but police failed to make any arrests. Finally, police started monitoring footage from YouTube, Twitter, surveillance cameras and photos shared online where they saw suspects vandalizing the office space and later starting a fire.

Edward Thomas Schinzing
Edward Thomas Schinzing's tattoo that led to his arrest Department of Justice

One of the photos showed a shirtless man with a tattoo on his back spelling his last name. Police started tracking the suspect that led them to Schinzing. However, it took exactly two months for them to arrest Schinzing.

There were three county employees working there when the Schinzing and others started the fire and were forced to flee. The jail at that time had 289 inmates, whose life came at risk, the authorities said.

What's in a Name?

Edward Thomas Schinzing
A shirtless Edward Thomas Schinzing inside the Justice Center Department of Justice

According to court records, Schinzing's tattooed name on his back appears in several photos and video images. This led police to look for his face which they finally detected in other images. Schinzing was identified when investigators compared a previous jail booking photo and a picture of his back tattoo. He is also suspected of having left the office at one point and returning with a shirt on but wearing the same orange cap, then spreading the fire by lighting paper and other combustible things, according to the affidavit.

Schinzing is the first to face federal charges in the Justice Center fire, which prompted officials to put up a fence around the building. The fence over the past two months has become a flashpoint between protesters and police officers stationed in front to guard the building and its occupants.

Schinzing, who has been charged with arson, a felony offense that carries up to 20 years in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, appeared in federal court on Tuesday. According to Oregonian, Schinzing was sentenced to five years probation earlier this year after he was found guilty of third-degree assault and attempted fourth-degree assault for punching his girlfriend in the face in front of their eight-year-old son.