Third man federally charged with arson for allegedly lighting police car on fire during protests

(Rick Bowmer | AP file photo) In this Saturday, May 30, 2020, file photo, protesters look at a burned police vehicle in Salt Lake City. Christopher Isidro Rojas, 28, was arrested Friday on one charge of arson for his alleged role in the police car fire.

Federal officers charged and arrested a third man for allegedly helping set fire to an overturned Salt Lake City police car in the protests that happened downtown on May 30.

Christopher Isidro Rojas, 28, was arrested Friday on one charge of arson for his alleged role in the police car fire. Rojas was apprehended shortly after he left his apartment, when officers pulled him over to complete the arrest.

Rojas was also the man featured in a Washington Post story on Utah police officers’ support of the protests, in which officers delivered pizza and coolers of Gatorade and water to help protesters in Logan. The story was first brought to light by the Logan Herald-Journal.

“I thought, ‘Oh, no, here come the police to hassle us — this is a peaceful gathering and we have a right to be here,” Rojas told the Post then. “It was an incredible, really cool thing to do.”

The federal complaint unsealed this week alleges that Rojas “used a cigarette lighter to help another man, holding white fabric, light the fabric on fire.” That white fabric, hypothesized to be a tablecloth or bedsheet in the charges, was then thrown into the police car by the other man. The cloth landed partially in the interior of the car and partially on the street. The charges state that police have video of the men’s actions.

Later, according to the charges, Rojas was filmed saying, “I put the cop car on fire. It didn’t blow up.” The Salt Lake City Police Department asked the public for help in identifying him. FBI officials in Salt Lake City also offered rewards of up to $25,000 to help identify the people who appeared in the video.

Tips came in identifying Rojas, and police confirmed Rojas’ identity as the man in the video — in part by matching the shoes the man was wearing in the protest with the shoes Rojas was later photographed in while sitting at a pub.

Rojas is the third man to receive an arson charge in connection with the police car that was set on fire. Earlier in June, Jackson Stuart Tamowski Patton, 26, and Latroi Devons Newbins, 28, were charged. Thursday’s update from the Department of Justice says that Patton is still in custody, while Newbins has been released.

In a statement, U.S. District Attorney John Huber complimented the cooperation of police and FBI officials. “Utah law enforcement has a strong history of working together. The investigation surrounding the burning of the patrol car is an excellent example of agencies playing to their strengths, giving us the tools we need to investigate and prosecute this criminal conduct.”

If found guilty, Rojas’ federal arson charge would mean a minimum of five years in prison, with a maximum of 20 years in prison.