Federal authorities have charged a Rochester man with setting a fire at a pawnshop near the site of protests over the police killing of George Floyd.
Montez T. Lee, 25, was charged Monday in a federal complaint with one count of arson for a May 28 fire at the Max It Pawn, 2726 Lake St. The pawnshop is about two blocks from Minneapolis police’s Third Precinct station, which was set on fire the same night by other suspects as thousands protested the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man from St. Louis Park who was killed May 25 after then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes.
Federal authorities on Friday also announced that they had charged Jessica L. White, 33, of Andover, with conspiracy to commit arson on May 28 at an Enterprise Rent-A-Car location in St. Paul.
Lee is at least the 11th and White the 12th person charged in federal court in connection with arson and other crimes that took place in Minnesota in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. Court filings indicate that the investigations are continuing.
White, who was arrested June 16, was captured on surveillance cameras inside and outside the rental car company, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Video allegedly showed White outside the business knocking on a window and looking through a door while two companions were inside, the release said. After her companions exited, it said, flames and smoke were seen in the lobby. The building was destroyed by fire.
The criminal complaint does not identify her companions. The affidavit filed to substantiate the complaint was sealed, indicating the investigation remains open.
According to the criminal complaint against Lee: On June 8, investigators with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives received three videos from an anonymous source that allegedly showed Lee setting fire to the pawnshop.
One video showed a man pouring liquid from a metal container throughout the building and then standing outside holding his fist in the air as it burned, the complaint says. A second video showed a man standing in front of the burning building speaking to the person recording, it says.
“[Expletive] this place,” he said, according to the complaint. “We’re gonna burn this [expletive] down.”
A third video showed the suspect among a group of men joking about attacking restaurants, then people looting the pawnshop, the charges say.
Investigators found a Facebook profile allegedly linked to Lee that contained a public post about the pawnshop fire. The post included the caption, “Prod The Real Activist Doe,” followed by emojis of a laughing face, a fire and a skull, according to the criminal complaint.
Floyd’s killing set off days of protests around the metro and the world that also included the looting, vandalism and burning of hundreds of buildings in the metro area.
All four former officers who were at the scene of Floyd’s killing face criminal charges and are scheduled to appear in court June 29.