SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The 5th suspect arrested for federal arson of a Salt Lake City Police vehicle, an Airman First Class with the U.S. Air Force in Layton, has been allowed a pretrial release.
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 occurred 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.
“But then when it turned violent in any way, whether it was the burning of the police car, throwing things at the officers, things like that, that’s where it crosses the line,” said Gary Yocum, a retired Hill Force Air Base employee.
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.
“The frustrations are high, there’s a lot of people doing things they may not have done normally, doesn’t necessarily excuse the fact, doesn’t get you out of the legal part of it, but at the same time, there could be some understanding,” said Yocum.
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. Our intent has been to bring consequences 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,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said Thursday.
In that footage, 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 was seen holding a blue cigarette lighter while the man next to him held a piece of white fabric material, according to the complaint. Rojas ignited the fabric and the man with him threw the material into the window of the police vehicle.
The man next to him was wearing a gasmask which was later identified as the gas mask worn by Williams as an M50 Joint Service General Protective Mask. Clarified photographs of Williams wearing the mask revealed lettering on its attached M61 filter canister which stated, “TRNG ONLY.”
A lot number was also observed on the canister, according to the complaint.
Williams was also observed unmasked at the riot and law enforcement officers were able to use several photographs to identify Williams.
Williams was identified as an Airman First Class in the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Hill Air Force Base and 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 was ordered on Thursday to be held but in a detention hearing on Friday, U. S. Magistrate Judge Jared Bennett released Williams with certain pretrial conditions.
In a statement issued to ABC4, Donovan K Potter, 75th ABW Media Chief said Williams is part of the 75th Air Base Wing at Hill Air Force Base.
“The military does not condone acts for which he has been charged, but this is a federal case. Base officials are cooperating with federal and local law enforcement agencies. I also want to point out that military members under investigation for any offense are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
“There’s too many things involved in it, to just say outright just off of this what should be done, I mean, what level of punishment, if he’s guilty of it, I find it hard he’s going to keep his job on base,” said Yocum.
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.