Air Force airman faces federal arson charge in Salt Lake City police car fire

National News

SALT LAKE CITY (KTVX) – A U.S. Air Force airman is the fifth suspect arrested for the arson of a Salt Lake City police vehicle during riots in late May.

According to the Department of Justice, Larry Raynold Williams, Jr., 22, of West Haven, was arrested Wednesday by the FBI and members of its Joint Terrorism Task Force with the assistance of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

The arson happened during the riots in Salt Lake City on May 30 after a peaceful protest downtown turned violent. A Salt Lake City police officer was driving her police vehicle and became boxed-in by surrounding protestors.

The officer was able to flee from her patrol car which was then overturned, vandalized, and set on fire. Video footage from the event shows individual rioters using fire and explosives to damage and destroy the vehicle.

Police arrested dozens of individuals for various crimes and five individuals have been charged federally for their roles in the arson of the police vehicle.

“Since May 30, investigators and prosecutors have engaged in a determined investigation of those who were responsible for burning the police patrol car in downtown Salt Lake City,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said Wednesday. “Our intent has been to bring consequence to the lawlessness that we witnessed. While available video and photographs played a prominent role in the investigation, solid investigative efforts by agents and detectives made the difference in these arrests.”

In footage of the incident, officials say Christopher Isidro Rojas, who has also been charged with federal arson, is standing next to a man who was dressed in a black Nike hoodie, black Nike sweatpants, black shoes, and a black gas mask.

Rojas can be seen holding a blue cigarette lighter while the man next to him holds a piece of white fabric, according to the complaint. Rojas ignites the fabric and the man with him throws the material into the window of the police vehicle, the complaint says.

Investigators used clues from the M50 Joint Service General Protective Mask worn by the man in the video to make the arrest. Clarified photographs of the mask revealed lettering on its attached M61 filter canister which stated, “TRNG ONLY,” and a lot number was also visible on the canister.

Williams, who was also photographed during the riots without a mask on, was later identified as an Airman First Class in the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Hill Air Force Base. The complaint says he had been issued an M50 gas mask for training purposes in March.

On Aug. 13, the readiness squadron at HAFB conducted an inventory check of equipment issued to Williams and the lot number for one of the gas canisters assigned to Williams was identical to the number observed on the gas mask as depicted in pictures taken at the riot.

Williams will make an initial appearance on the arson charge at 3 p.m. Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead.

Federal arson charges in the case are pending against Jackson Stuart Tamowski Patton, 26, Latroi Devon Newbins, 28, Christopher Rojas, 28, and Lateesha Richards, 24, all of Salt Lake City, who were charged earlier. Patton and Richards remain in custody while Newbins and Rojas have been released on conditions of pretrial release.

Individuals charged in complaints or indictments are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in court. Arson carries a potential sentence of 20 years in prison with a minimum mandatory five-year sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys from the Utah U.S. Attorney’s Office are prosecuting the case. Investigating agencies include members of the FBI’s JTTF, the Salt Lake City Police Department, the ATF and the Utah Department of Public Safety.

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