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Reo's Ribs in Portland, Ore. was set ablaze in late November and authorities investigating the fire have determined that arson was the cause.
Officials are searching to question the suspected arsonist caught on surveillance footage. The individual set the local restaurant ablaze after the owner criticized vandalism in the area committed by Antifa militants.
The video shows the person in question setting a fire at the rear of Reo’s Ribs, continuing to kindle the flames.
A spokesperson for Portland Fire and Rescue confirmed Monday to KOIN 6 News that investigators concluded that the fire was intentionally set.
Responding crews arrived at the Northeast Portland restaurant early in the morning of Nov. 23 to find smoke and flames on both sides of the building on Northeast Sandy Boulevard. There were no injuries and firefighters quickly extinguished the fire.
"I feel really relieved that we know who did it and we know that we might be stopping other fires," Reo’s Ribs co-owner Myra Girod stated. "And we know that is in't racially motivated or hate motivated."
Prior to the alleged arson, the brother of the affected restaurant owner criticized rioters committing vandalism.
Ricky Varnado, brother of Reo’s Ribs owner Reo Varnado, told local reporters: "I just hope whoever is doing this, they would catch the people who’s doing it and be prosecuted for what they’ve done."
"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," he emphasized.
A family member at Reo’s Ribs recounted that he observed damage caused by protests near his restaurant only a few days before the recent fire. While Reo’s Ribs was in tact, the building next door was defaced by Antifa activists.
The Hollywood District restaurant suffered property damage in another fire back in 2017 and reopened after reconstruction. That incident was determined to be accidental.
Reo Varnado, who is also hip hop superstar Snoop Dogg's uncle, remained suspicious. He was on his nephew’s cooking show with cooking personality Martha Stewart filming a segment at the time of the 2017 fire.
Despite the economic setbacks facing family-owned businesses, Girod noted that the community has expressed overwhelming support since Reo's Ribs reopened after the first first.
“People knew that we were open finally and we were doing well,” Girod said. The restaurant was able to offer delivery and takeout during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, now Girod is not sure when the establishment will be able to reopen, although she’s hopeful that it will be sometime this coming spring.