Little Rock, AR – The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas announced on Dec. 17 that four arrests had been made in the firebombings of police vehicles in Little Rock during the Jacob Blake protests in August.
“Today’s arrests send a message that violence targeted toward law enforcement will not be tolerated,” U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland said in a press release on Dec. 17.
“Breaking into a police compound and firebombing a police vehicle with a homemade explosive device is clearly not a peaceful protest,” Hiland continued.
“Those who would target law enforcement with violent acts will not do so in the Eastern District of Arkansas without the full resources of the federal government being deployed to assist our state and local partners in bringing those responsible to justice. They will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Hiland said.
The press release said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Arkansas State Police, the North Little Rock Police Department, and the Little Rock Police Department worked together to investigate the attacks.
“We worked methodically on each of the scenes, collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses, and following leads to help us solve these cases,” ATF New Orleans Field Division Special Agent in Charge Kurt Thielhorn said in a statement.
“We were able to narrow in on particular individuals who we identified responsible for the law enforcement vehicle fires in the Little Rock area. We appreciate the assistance the public was able to provide in order to bring these individuals to justice,” Agent Thielhorn said.
The first damage to the police vehicles was discovered at about 6 a.m. on Aug. 26, the morning after multiple small protests occurred in the city, KTHV reported.
One of the protests took place in southwest Little Rock in front of the Little Rock Police Department’s 12th Street Substation, according to the DoJ press release.
When officers reported for the morning shift on Aug. 26 they found the tires had been slashed on four patrol vehicles, KTHV reported.
The officers also found several unexploded Molotov cocktails that appeared to have been thrown at the police vehicles.
The U.S. attorney said surveillance video from the parking lot showed two people nearby after the protests.
The video showed the suspects launched a flaming object into the parking lot, according to the complaint.
Cooperating witnesses told investigators that the Molotov cocktails were assembled at the home of 31-year-old Brittany “Dawn” Jeffrey, a well-known Black Lives Matter activist who led a series of protests at Walmarts in the Little Rock area during the summer, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
Then on Aug. 28, several Arkansas State Police vehicles were vandalized or torched in the parking lot of state police headquarters in Little Rock, according to the press release by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ).
The complaint said one vehicle had been set ablaze, one vehicle had been spray-painted, and several other police vehicles had suffered punctured tires.
Investigators found the remains of a Molotov cocktail made out of a brandy bottle that had detonated, according to the press release.
DoJ said that surveillance videos showed three suspects entered the vehicle storage area wearing dark clothing and backpacks.
Video showed them making a motion as if they were slashing tires and then throwing a lighted object into one of the police vehicles, according to the press release.
Charging documents said that witnesses had identified 22-year-old Renea Goddard, 27-year-old Emily Nowlin, and 24-year-old Aline Espinosa-Villegas as those responsible for the incident.
Prosecutors said investigators obtained federal search warrants and were able to confirm through cell phone data that they were all present in the Arkansas State Police headquarters parking lot the night the cars were firebombed.
Jeffrey, Nowlin, Goddard, and Espinosa-Villegas were arrested and federal charges against them included malicious destruction of property belonging to an entity receiving federal funding, conspiracy to commit those acts, and possession of a destructive device, the press release said.
All four were booked into the Pulaski County detention center and scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe P. Volpe on Dec. 17, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.