Minn. man pleads guilty to helping burn down Minneapolis police building

The burning of the 3rd Precinct building during George Floyd protests earlier this year led the governor to call in the U.S. National Guard

By Andy Mannix
Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — A Staples, Minn., man pleaded guilty Thursday to breaching a fence that enclosed the Third Precinct police headquarters in Minneapolis and helping light the building on fire during civil unrest that followed the police killing of George Floyd this summer.

Bryce Michael Williams, 26, was indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to commit arson. According to the indictment, on May 28, Williams was among the hundreds of people who’d gathered around the police precinct in south Minneapolis. The crowd chanted “Burn it down, Burn it down,” as several of its members tore down a fence meant to keep people away from the building.

Crowds gather in front of the burning Minneapolis police 3rd Precinct building Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis.
Crowds gather in front of the burning Minneapolis police 3rd Precinct building Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Williams and several others trampled over the fence and toward the building. Williams helped light a Molotov cocktail, which another man brought into the building and used it to set a fire, according to the charges.

Williams later threw a box on a fire burning just outside the precinct’s entry doors, according to the charges.

The burning of the Third Precinct has become one of the most prominent visual symbols of the protests and riots that erupted in response to a Minneapolis police officer pinning Floyd, an unarmed Black man, to the ground while Floyd and onlookers begged for his life. The four officers who have been charged in relation to Floyd’s death all worked out of the Third Precinct.

The siege and burning of a police precinct has no precedent in modern American history, and the event led the governor to call in the U.S. National Guard in the nights that followed to quell the unrest. The precinct is among 150 properties damaged by fire in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. Dozens of buildings burned to the ground.

Several people, of seemingly different motivations, have been charged with lighting the precinct on fire. Williams is charged with three co-conspirators who crossed the fence assisted in setting fires around the same time, according to the indictment. They are Dylan Robinson, of Brainerd; Davon De-Andre Turner, of St. Paul; and Brandon Michael Wolfe, also of St. Paul.

Williams is the only one to plead guilty so far.

The charges say Turner helped Williams light the Molotov cocktail and carried it into the precinct. Robinson also threw an incendiary device into the building, and Wolfe rolled a barrel into the flames “with the intent to accelerate the existing fire,” according to the indictment.

A member of the Boogaloo Bois, a right-wing group intent on capitalizing on chaos and starting the next American civil war, has also been charged with assisting in the damage to the precinct that night. Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old from Boerne, Texas, shot 13 rounds from AK-47-style rifle into the precinct while people were inside the building.

Hunter also bragged on Facebook that, “I helped the community burn down that police station” and “I didn’t’ [sic] protest peacefully,” according to the charges.

(c)2020 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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