PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Providence man has been arrested and charged with torching a city police cruiser during a riot downtown in early June.
Luis Joel Sierra, 34, was arraigned Friday on a federal arson charge and ordered held in federal custody.
On the night of June 1-2, hundreds of people gathered downtown to demand justice for George Floyd but the situation quickly devolved into a violent and destructive scene in which several officers were injured, businesses were looted and 65 people ended up being arrested.
Investigators from the FBI and Providence police allege at one point, Sierra leaned inside a parked cruiser and set a fire using flammable liquid and a lighter. The cruiser was quickly engulfed in flames and destroyed.
“Senseless violence and vandalism are no way to effect change,” Weisman said in a statement. “The alleged actions of this defendant are indicative of his intent to inflict damage and promote chaos – not to address issues.”
“Not only did the alleged actions of this defendant destroy a Providence Police cruiser, he also endangered the safety of dozens of nearby protesters as the cruiser burst into flames,” he continued.
Court documents show investigators were given a recorded conversation in which Sierra allegedly detailed his actions in setting the fire, according to prosecutors.
Additionally, videos from surveillance cameras, phones and social media bolstered the investigation, along with tips from the public, prosecutors said.
The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force executed a search warrant at Sierra’s home on Friday and seized clothes matching what he was supposedly wearing the night of the riot.
“We will not stand for this type of destruction and violence in our community,” said Joseph Bonavolonta, special agent in charge at the FBI’s Boston office. “Rest assured, the FBI will continue to work with the Providence Police Department and our law enforcement partners to apprehend and charge those who engaged in violent crime under the cover of peaceful protests. After all, violent acts like this one steal focus away from the messages that peaceful protesters were striving to deliver.”
The incident remains under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 857-386-2000 or submit a tip online.