U.S. airman faces federal charge for allegedly lighting police car on fire during May protest

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Hundreds march in downtown Salt Lake City overturning a police car and setting it on fire on Saturday, May 30, 2020, to protest the death of George Floyd, the man who died earlier this week after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.

A fifth person has been charged by federal authorities in the burning of a Salt Lake City police car in May during a protest against police violence — this time, the accused is a United States airman stationed at Hill Air Force Base.

Larry Raynold Williams Jr., 22, was arrested Wednesday at his home in West Haven, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He faces one count of using fire and explosives to damage or destroy a police car.

Prosecutors allege in charging documents that Williams held a white sheet or tablecloth as another man, Christopher Rojas, used a cigarette lighter to ignite the cloth. When the fire caught, prosecutors say Williams threw the material into the window of an overturned police car.

Investigators identified Williams as their suspect by the gas mask he was wearing, according to charges. The markings on his mask were “consistent with markings applied at HAFB,” prosecutors wrote in charging documents, and a serial number for a gas canister assigned to Williams at the base was identical to the serial number on the gas mask he wore, as depicted in pictures taken at the riot.

Williams is expected to make his first appearance in court Thursday afternoon.

Prosecutors have now charged a dozen people with being involved in flipping and burning a police car during a May 30 protest sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Four of them, Christopher Isidro Rojas, 28; Jackson Stuard Tamowski Patton, 26; and Latroi Devons Newbins, 28, and Lateesha Richards, 24, join Williams in facing federal charges.

The burning of the police car was one of the most memorable images from that day’s protest. Probable cause statements say an officer was driving her patrol car to work and was stopped by a crowd of protesters near 200 East and 400 South. The crowd surrounded her car and banged on the windows, according to the statement. She called for help and was picked up by other officers, before her car was destroyed.