Five men who torched cop car during George Floyd riot sentenced

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A federal court has sentenced five Georgia men to prison terms after they were convicted of setting a police vehicle aflame last year during riots following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

According to reports, Hall County, Georgia residents Bruce Anthony Thompson, 23, Jesse James Smallwood, 22, Delveccho Waller, Jr., 23, Dashun Martin, 24, and Judah Coleman Bailey, 21, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson.

The police vehicle, which was marked, had been parked outside the Gainesville, Ga., officer’s apartment when the five men set it ablaze on June 1, 2020, around 1 a.m., Fox News reported, adding that all of them had met downtown before spotting the Ford SUV. After covering attempting to hide their identities by using masks and bandanas to cover their faces, one of them shot a flare through the vehicle’s rear windshield, which set it on fire, according to prosecutors.

Less than two weeks later, all five men were arrested. Local reports noted that police were tipped to a description of Smallwood’s vehicle and during a search, officers found a flare gun and three explosives.

Besides spending more than a year behind bars, all five were also sentenced to three years’ worth of supervised probation and they are required to repay the Gainsville Police Department restitution amounting to more than $3,600.

Floyd died in late May 2020 after being pinned to the pavement by then-Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin for nearly nine minutes. Video of the incident that immediately went viral after being posted online showed Floyd repeatedly telling Chauvin and three other officers he was having trouble breathing. The officers had been called to a local store after the clerk suspected Floyd of attempting to pass a phony $20 bill.

Floyd’s death initially sparked rioting and violence in Minneapolis, but it quickly spread to other major cities around the country and lasted for months, fueled along the way by other incidents involving police and unarmed black men.

There, the city’s third police precinct building was also vandalized and set on fire after officers were ordered to abandon it.

In January, one Minnesota man pleaded guilty for his role in setting the police building ablaze.

During a virtual hearing, Davon De-Andre Turner, 25, of St. Paul, told the court that he and others set the precinct building on fire after illegally entering and throwing a Molotov cocktail on the floor.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Turner faced between 41 and 51 months in prison, or roughly four years, though the judge had some discretion as to the length of time behind bars.

In June, U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz, a George W. Bush appointee, sentenced Bryce Michael Williams to 27 months in prison for his role in attacking the precinct and ordered him to help pay $12 million in restitution along with three other men who had been convicted. Schlitz went on to describe Williams as a “good person who made a terrible mistake” as his justification for handing out a lighter sentence.

Schlitz did reject a plea by Williams, then 27, a father and former college basketball player, for probation, calling him a leader of a gang of people that torched the third precinct, “not a follower.”

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Jon Dougherty

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