An arsonist has been sentenced to almost 9 years in prison for setting fire to a cell phone store in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd last year.
Matthew Rupert, 29, of Galesburg, Illinois, posted messages on his Facebook account referencing the Black Lives Matter protests occurring in the Twin Cities following the death of Floyd, including one that stated, "I'm going to Minneapolis tomorrow who coming only goons I'm renting hotel rooms," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota.
Rupert broadcast a Facebook Live video May 29, 2020 indicating he was in Minneapolis, announcing he came "to riot." The video shows him handing out artillery-shell fireworks, encouraging violence against law enforcement officers, actively damaging property, breaking into buildings, and looting businesses, according to the news release.
"Matthew Rupert chose to drive more than 400 miles from his home in Illinois to Minnesota to engage in violence and destruction, all while broadcasting it for the world to see," Acting U.S. Attorney W. Anders Folk wrote in a statement. "Peaceful protest was not on his agenda. Arson, looting, property damage, and the glorification of it, will not be tolerated. Today, justice has caught up with Mr. Rupert as he must now account for his crimes."
The video also depicts Rupert asking for lighter fluid before entering a boarded-up Sprint store located on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis, according to the defendant's guilty plea and documents filed with the court. Rupert canvassed the store and eventually entered a backroom while telling others he had located a store safe. Rupert and others then knocked several boxes into a pile on the ground. Rupert doused the pile of boxes with lighter fluid and then directed another individual — at the time a juvenile — to light the pile on fire. Rupert fled the building and stated, "I lit it on fire!"
Rupert live streamed much his criminal actions on social media.
"[Tuesday] we count yet another violent offender as held to account for his reckless and deliberate damage to our community," special agent in charge of the FBI's Minneapolis field office Michael Paul wrote in a statement. "Mr. Rupert made his way to Minneapolis for the express purpose of instigating lawless behavior on our local streets. He demonstrated no purpose other than endangering peaceful protests by actively encouraging violence against law enforcement and personally destroying community businesses.
"Together with our local partners, FBI Minneapolis and ATF St. Paul continue to hold indifferent criminals like Mr. Rupert accountable for their dangerous and divisive criminal conduct in the Twin Cities."
The FBI was assisted in the investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the FBI Chicago Field Office, the FBI Springfield Field Office, and the Chicago Police Department.
"Arson is a dangerous act of violence," said acting Special Agent in Charge Jon Ortiz, St. Paul Field Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) wrote in a statement. "Arson poses a great threat to public safety. ATF works diligently to secure public safety. The defendant in this case committed a reckless act of violence on unsuspecting members of this community.
"We are thankful that no one was seriously injured or killed as a result of this crime. This sentencing will send a message to anyone who considers conducting these types of violent acts that they will not be tolerated. ATF will continue to work alongside our law enforcement partners to ensure that this community remains a safe place."
Arson, looting, rioting, and destruction over Floyd's death has been estimated to cause more than $1 billion in property damage, Fox News reported.
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