Man Charged for Allegedly Helping Torch Police Car During Riots

July 24, 2020 Updated: July 24, 2020

A Salt Lake City man helped set a police car on fire during riots in late May, according to federal law enforcement officials.

Video footage from May 30 showed a man later identified as Christopher Isidro Rojas standing with a second man near the police vehicle.

Rojas, holding a lighter, helped light a piece of white fabric. The other man then hurled the fabric toward the vehicle, which had been overturned. The burning cloth landed partially in the interior.

Rojas was later captured on video saying, “I put the cop car on fire. It didn’t blowup,” according to a criminal complaint.

The suspect was wearing an unbuttoned black and red flannel shirt over a gray t-shirt, a dark-colored baseball cap worn backwards, and a medical-style mask, according to a criminal complaint.

Epoch Times Photo
Two suspects light a piece of fabric on fire during riots in Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 30, 2020. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)
Epoch Times Photo
Two suspects light a piece of fabric on fire during riots in Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 30, 2020. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

After appealing to members of the public for help identifying the suspect, authorities received multiple tips. During the identification process, authorities compared shoes the suspect was wearing during the riot with shoes Rojas was seen wearing at a local pub. They also found a distinct mole on his neck, which both the suspect and Rojas had.

The defendant was arrested following a traffic stop last week as he left his apartment, authorities announced Thursday.

Rojas told a local reporter in Logan on June 2 that he believed in peaceful protest.

Officials said the gathering on May 30 started peaceful but turned violent.

“We saw people hijack what started as a peaceful and lawful protest to incite violence and damage property,” FBI Special Agent Paul Hartel said at a press conference on Thursday.

“This kind of violent behavior jeopardizes the rights and behavior of all citizens, and shouldn’t be tolerated,” he added later.

Epoch Times Photo
Christopher Rojas in Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 30, 2020. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)
Epoch Times Photo
A man stands in front of a burning police car after it was flipped over and set on fire during riots in Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 30, 2020. (Rick Bowmer/AP Photo)

Rojas faces up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted of arson. He did not have an attorney listed.

U.S. Attorney John Huber called May 30 “a dark day in Utah” during which extremists committed criminal acts, but said law and order eventually prevailed, as evidenced by the people later caught, such as Rojas.

“Today, we remind ourselves that there is consequence to our choices. It’s what our mothers taught us, and it remains true today,” Huber told reporters.

“That is our message today to the good people of the state of Utah, regardless of your opinion, your politics, or philosophies. That Utah will remain a state of law and order, that regardless of what fit of courageousness you feel you have as you you confront and abuse the police on a certain afternoon, those choices and those actions will catch up with you.”

A black man is still being sought (pdf). He was the one who hurled the flaming item towards the police car.

Anyone with information was urged to contact authorities.

Two people were previously arrested and are facing federal arson charges. They were identified as Jackson Stuart Tamowski Patton, 26, and Latroi Devon Newbins, 28, both of Salt Lake City.

Patton remains in custody. A judge allowed Newbins to be released, despite a request from prosecutors to keep him in custody.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber