Police arrest Vancouver man after arson, burglary at nonprofit

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter



A Vancouver man was arrested Saturday morning after police and firefighters responded to the most recent incident at a nonprofit agency that has been the target of vandalism for several months.

Justin Lee Smith-Riggs, 20, was taken into custody after an alarm went off at about 2:40 a.m. at the Tilikum Agency, 301 S.E. Hearthwood Blvd.

Smith-Riggs is being held in the Clark County Jail on suspicion of second-degree burglary, second-degree arson and second-degree malicious mischief. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance Monday morning.

Sgt. Rod Trumpf, Vancouver Police Department spokesman, said that officers responding to an interior motion alarm found that a window had been shattered at the site, formerly known as the Southwest Washington Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

“It sounded like someone was inside,” Trumpf said.

When the person fled, pursuing officers caught him and arrested him.

While investigating, officers confirmed that smoke was coming from the broken widow and the Vancouver Fire Department was called to the scene. A news release issued Saturday afternoon reported very minor damage to the interior of the unoccupied building.

The Vancouver fire marshal and Vancouver Police Department arson investigator processed the scene and collected evidence.

The Tilikum Agency was heavily vandalized about two weeks ago after a late-night or early-morning break-in.

In earlier incidents, vandals wrote graffiti on the building’s windows on May 6; on Aug. 24, two young boys threw rocks at the building, breaking a window.

The agency supports a large community of deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing people living in southern Washington by providing free service for those seeking assistance with hearing aids or other assistive devices, housing options, employment and more. The agency’s leadership, board of directors and operational staff are deaf.

It serves more than 125 clients per year in Clark, Cowlitz, Pacific, Skamania, Thurston and Yakima counties, as well as the Tri-Cities area.