Fire Damages Spokane House Frequented by Squatters

JONATHAN GLOVER, The Spokesman-Review

In December, Rickie Goodwin said he worried squatters might one day wreck his home in East Central Spokane.

For months, the disabled owner of the two-story wooden house at 117 S. Perry Street said he would regularly board up windows and doors, and stick large pieces of furniture in entryways to deter people from entering.

At one point, he said he even maced a person at the home as they attempted to steal his car.

He hired a lawyer, Emily Plum Brooks, of the Brooks Plum Law Firm, to help draft an eviction notice. And he said he kept in regular contact with Spokane Police Department neighborhood resource officers, begging them for help.

But he claims they never helped.

"I've been discriminated against," he told The Spokesman-Review in December. "I'm so mad I'm thinking of burning my house down."

At about 5:15 a.m. Wednesday, Spokane firefighters were called to his residence to find large plumes of fire coming out of the first-floor windows and smoke billowing from the second floor, said Craig Cornelius, a battalion chief for Spokane Fire Department.

After quickly extinguishing the blaze, firefighters performed a primary and secondary search of the home and didn't find anyone inside.

"It appears to be a vacant home," Cornelius said.

Hours later, they were still sifting through a large amount of debris turned black from smoke that was clogging the home's interior. They placed the items outside near a large pile of debris already sitting in the front yard.

An investigation into the cause of the fire was launched, though Cornelius and fire investigators think it could have something to do with squatters who are known to occupy the home and the one next to it at 123 S. Perry St.

Goodwin, upon hearing what happened to his house, wasn't surprised to hear the news.

"I knew this was going to happen," he said over the phone while standing in front of the charred remains of his house. "I knew it was gonna."

Goodwin claims he knows who did it, and said they set his house on fire because he would no longer let them stay there.

"I just kept chasing them off, and chasing them off, and chasing them off," he said.

Residents in the neighborhood who've lived there for several years are almost certain squatters had something to do with it, especially because they would often see large groups of people moving in and out of the house, usually at night.

"I think it's empty now," said 66-year-old Marcus Lehmann, who's lived across the street from the burned house for eight years. "But there were so many people coming in and out. I think it's squatters and drugs."

He said police were there a few days ago to board up the neighboring home and remove the occupants who have been staying there since the home's owner died several years ago.

"I think they were here for both houses," he said.

Back in December, neighbors and police told a different story. According to Michele Anderson, the city's public safety communications manager who spoke on behalf of a Spokane Police neighborhood resource officer, Goodwin allowed occupants to stay there several months at a time.

"The people who stay there are tenants. And they allow others to stay there," she said. "He's been told several times by a neighborhood resource officer that he needs to take steps as a landlord to get them removed."

The occupants of 123 S. Perry St., who were staying there illegally and wished to remain anonymous, said in December that Goodwin would frequent his home and appeared friendly with the occupants, but on some days he would flip, become angered and threaten to kick them out.

"But he did agree to have them stay there," one occupant said.

But Goodwin has always maintained in interviews that the squatters were staying there illegally. And he always maintained he's called police "several times" asking for help.

"But what difference does it make now?" he said. "I'm gonna track down who did it, too. I'm gonna find them ... I'm gonna find them."

Copyright © 2017 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved.



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