Here’s what you can expect at Denny’s: A Grand Slam, caricatured waitresses, truckers, people trying to nurse their hangovers, the list goes on. What you probably aren’t expecting as you take a seat in the American diner chain is to be lit on fire by a complete stranger.
That’s what happened to Scott Ranstrom, 69, on April 19 at around 9 p.m., at a Denny’s in Happy Valley, Oregon. Ranstrom was simply sitting and enjoying his meal when Deshaun James Swanger approached him, doused him in gasoline, set him alight, and took off running. Employees and patrons helped put the fire out, but not before Ranstrom had acquired burns to his body and face. He is currently in critical condition.
Ranstrom’s family set up a GoFundMe page in order to help pay for his medical bills. An update reads, “Dear friends, it has been three weeks since Scott was hospitalized and he is still in critical condition at the burn center in Portland, Oregon. The family of Scott Ranstrom would like to extend our gratitude to everyone who has donated to Scott’s recovery fund and all of the ‘prayers’ coming his way. Please continue to keep Scott in your prayers, for this has been a very difficult time.”
The next evening, thanks to several tips from the public, deputies arrested Swanger on an attempted murder charge and is being held on $500,000 bail. He was living in a transitional house with 18 other people near 80th and Sunnyside Drive near Milwaukie, Oregon.
This isn’t the only incident involving Swanger and setting someone on fire. Police suspect that Swanger may also be responsible for another attack at the Century Theaters at Clackamas Town Center, which happens to be across the street from Swanger’s transitional house.
At a screening of “The Fate of the Furious,” a man dumped gasoline from a water bottle onto another man, lit a book of matches, threw it onto the man, and ran off. A witness reported, “The flames started to catch, I think, on his arm, but it went out very quickly with his movement.
“I didn’t smell gasoline until the [victim] ran by me. With the amount of gas on the floor he must have squeezed the bottle hard.”
Swanger has a lengthy criminal history, including first- and second-degree burglary, marijuana charges, and car theft. Why he took to arson and attempted murder is unclear. He appears to have committed a random act of violence simply for kicks.