Four Charged with Arson in Separate Attacks in Minn. and Wash.

December 14, 2020

Four men have been charged with arson for fires set as part of separate political protests: Three in Minnesota and a fourth in Washington state.

The three Minnesota men were indicted on federal arson charges in connection with fires that were set inside the Target corporate headquarters building during unrest that followed rumors of an August police shooting in downtown Minneapolis.

A 45-year-old man from Grand Coulee, Washington was identified by police on Thursday as the man who threatened to blow up the office of the Spokane County Democrats because he was upset at the whole government system.

The Minneapolis unrest began after a Black man who was a suspect in a homicide fatally shot himself as police were closing in. In the city still reeling from the May 25 death of George Floyd, rumors of a police shooting circulated and activists and demonstrators went downtown to protest, while authorities worked to quickly dispel the rumors.

Federal prosecutors announced Thursday that Shador Tommie Cortez Jackson, 24, of Richfield, Victor Devon Edwards, 31, of St. Paul, and Leroy Lemonte Perry Williams, 34, of Minneapolis, were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit arson.

According to allegations in the indictment and court documents, Jackson, Edwards and Williams went downtown where dozens of others had gathered on Aug. 26. Court documents say Jackson used a construction sign to break a glass door at the Target building, and once inside, he set a fire on a counter in a mailroom while Edwards stood by.

Court documents say Edwards later added liquid accelerant to the fire, and Jackson attempted to light a second fire on top of cardboard boxes using a lighter and bottle of ignitable liquid. Jackson, Edwards, Williams and others then ran outside, but Williams went back in and tried to light a fire inside the building entrance.

Messages left with the men’s attorneys were not immediately returned Thursday. They will be arraigned at a later date

In Spokane, Washington, police said Peter Yeager, 45, did not actually have a bomb inside a backpack he carried into the office on Wednesday. But the Iraq War veteran was charged with first-degree arson for starting a fire in the building.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Yeager had an attorney.

Yeager told police he doesn’t support any political party and was not targeting Democrats, Spokane police said in a statement. Rather he was mad at the entire government system and the “elites” within, police said.

Yeager, who is in the Spokane County jail, also told police he acted alone and was not involved in any radical groups.

He used Google to find a political office, and the office of the Democrats was closest to his location, police said. He told police he assumed the Republican office was in Idaho.

Yeager told investigators he hoped to burn down the building, located on a busy commercial street, but not to hurt anyone.

Yeager also brought a handwritten copy of a manifesto into the building, police said. Yeager told detectives he suffers from PTSD.

A backpack with visible wires that Yeager wore into the office was not a bomb, but contained gasoline and oil he used to start a small fire, police said.

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