PHILADELPHIA - US Attorney William McSwain announced charges against four men stemming from their alleged involvement in police vehicle arsons during civil unrest in Philadelphia over the summer.
Anthony David Smith, Khalif Miller, and Carlos Matchett have each been charged with two counts of arson and one count of obstructing law enforcement, U.S. Attorney William McSwain said on Thursday.
According to McSwain, the three men are accused of using a road flare to torch a Philadelphia police patrol car parked near City Hall on May 30, as violent demonstrations unfolded in the city following the death of George Floyd.
Smith has been identified by the Workers World Party, as a high school teacher, community leader and organizer with Philly REAL (Racial, Economic and Legal) Justice. They say Smith has been a 'prominent organizer' of the Black Lives Matter Movement since 2015 and has led countless marches in that time.
"Mr. Smith was not in any way targeted by my office, I knew nothing about Mr. Smith or his affiliations until the investigation was nearly complete," McSwain said. "We do not investigate people at the US Attorney's office, we investigate alleged criminal behavior."
According to McSwain, the three men are accused of using a road flare to torch a Philadelphia police patrol car near City Hall on May 30, as violent demonstrations unfolded in the city following the death of George Floyd.
Also indicted on Thursday was Ayoub Tabri, a 24-year-old man from Arlington, Virginia. Tabri is alleged to have thrown a road flare into a Pennsylvania State Police SUV positioned near the on-ramp for I-676, which caused the car to become engulfed in flames. He has been charged with two counts of arson, and one count of obstructing law enforcement.
As a result of Tabri's alleged actions, McSwain said an officer who was standing near the torched vehicle was hit by a thrown road flare and his uniform caught fire. The trooper was also burned on the hand when he reached into the engulfed cruiser to retrieve a rifle to prevent it from being stolen.
If convicted, all four defendants face a mandatory minimum of seven years in prison, and a maximum possible sentence of 65 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $750,000.
“I want to be clear that we at the U.S. Attorney’s Office support peaceful protest – indeed, it is part of our job to protect First Amendment freedoms," McSwain said. "But violence is not speech. There is no right to riot, loot, rob, destroy or commit arson."
The charges come as Philadelphia has again experienced violent unrest following the deadly police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr.
Wallace, 27, was shot and killed after police say officers responded to his home for a report of a person with a weapon and were immediately confronted by Wallace who was armed with a knife. After failing to comply with commands to drop the knife, police say both officers opened fire, killing Wallace.
McSwain denounced the rioting and looting that followed the "tragic death" of Wallace Jr. and warned of further unrest following the upcoming election. The US Attorney said his office fully supports peaceful protest, but ensured that all acts of violence will be pursued.
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