Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces the arrest of Terrance Lee Hester, Jr. ( 20, Tampa) based on a criminal complaint for damaging or destroying by fire a building used in interstate commerce. Hester surrendered to federal authorities in Oswego, New York. After an initial appearance on Friday afternoon in the Northern District of New York, Hester remains in custody. If convicted, Hester faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 5 years, up to 20 years, in federal prison.
According to the complaint, on May 30 and May 31, 2020, a protest near a shopping plaza located at 2301 East Fowler Avenue in Tampa devolved into civil unrest, looting, and destruction of property. During this disturbance, the Champs Sports store in the shopping plaza was set on fire. The building became fully engulfed in fire, resulting in major damage to the building and the loss of property. The estimated loss to the building, the Champs Sports store, and other businesses in the plaza is approximately $1.25 million.
Video footage obtained by investigators revealed that Hester was one of the individuals participating in the civil disturbance, and that he tossed a flaming piece of cloth into the Champs store through a broken window. Fire investigators determined that the fire originated inside the Champs store and that Hester’s act caused or contributed to the cause of the fire.
A complaint is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Tampa Police Department, and Tampa Fire Rescue. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Sinacore.