Minneapolis, MN – A U.S. district court judge called one of the men who set fire to the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct during the George Floyd riots “a good person who made a terrible mistake” on Monday and sentenced him to less than the recommended minimum federal prison term.
U.S. District Court Judge Patrick Schiltz rejected 27-year-old Bryce Michael Williams request for probation only because he was a leader, “not a follower,” in the violent mob that set fire to the occupied police station on May 28, 2020, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Hundreds of businesses were damaged, looted, vandalized or burned to the ground as protests turned into violent riots in the wake of the in-custody death of Floyd.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey ordered police to abandon the Third Precinct at approximately 10 p.m. on May 28, 2020, and said he had been considering the possibility of doing so since shortly before noon that day, WCCO reported.
Rioters promptly forced their way into the precinct and burned it to the ground.
When firefighters arrived at the scene, rioters pelted them with projectiles, witnesses told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
These Minneapolis cops are getting clowned on💀 Protesters set the 3rd precinct station on fire, and celebrated with fireworks.😂😂 pic.twitter.com/xBTxhhd3Cd
— IG @BoolinHeavy (@igBoolinHeavy) May 29, 2020
Bystanders said that members of the mob also fired bullets into the burning police station.
“We’re hearing unconfirmed reports that gas lines to the Third Precinct have been cut and other explosive materials are in the building,” the City of Minneapolis tweeted during the night. “If you are near the building, for your safety, PLEASE RETREAT in the event the building explodes.”
Court records showed that Williams had posted video of himself and others rioting to his TikTok account, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Prosecutors said that Williams entered the Third Precinct as rioters chanted “burn it down” and lit a Molotov cocktail.
He handed it Davon De-Andrew Turner who used it to start a fire in the police station, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Videos showed that Williams threw boxes on the flames to build the fire.
A federal grand jury indicted four men for conspiracy to commit arson at the Third Precinct and all of them pleaded guilty to the charge, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
A former Minneapolis police officer testified at Williams’ sentencing that she was one of more than 300 officers who have left the department since the riots.
“There’s so much we lost that was more than bricks and mortar,” the retired 37-year veteran of the police force told the court.
Turner was sentenced to three years in prison, Dylan Shakespeare Robinson was sentenced to four years in prison, and Branden Michael Wolfe was sentenced to three years and five months in prison for the fires they set at the Third Precinct.
But the judge in Williams’ case decided to be more lenient, the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Schlitz sentenced Williams to just two years and three months behind bars because he had “done everything right” since his arrest.
The judge said it was “easy to understand” why Floyd’s death had affected Williams, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
However, Schlitz said he couldn’t just give Williams probation because of his role in the violence.
The judge said that Williams had no idea how many people were inside the Third Precinct, including “good police officers” and civilian employees, when he helped set the fire, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
He gave Williams until July 13 to surrender and said he would recommend he be placed in the federal penitentiary in Duluth so he could be close to his family.