SALT LAKE CITY – A federal complaint unsealed this week charges a third individual with one count of arson for allegedly setting fire to a Salt Lake City Police Department vehicle during May 30, 2020, riots in Salt Lake City.
Christopher Isidro Rojas, 28, of Salt Lake City was taken into custody Friday by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) as he left his apartment. Law enforcement officers executed a traffic stop after he got into a car.
The complaint alleges that on the afternoon of May 30, 2020, a peaceful protest in downtown Salt Lake City transitioned into acts of destruction and violence. Rioters near the Salt Lake City library overturned a Salt Lake City Police Department patrol car. Moments later, rioters set the patrol car on fire. Video footage from the event shows individuals using fire to damage and completely destroy the car. Federal authorities are charging the arson cases.
According to the complaint, video footage from the event shows an individual, later identified by police as Rojas. The complaint alleges Rojas used a cigarette lighter to help another man, holding white fabric, light the fabric on fire. Once the fabric begins to burn, the other man threw the burning fabric toward the overturned police car. According to the complaint, the burning cloth landed partially in the interior of the patrol car and partially on the street. Rojas is later recorded on video at the riot stating “I put the cop car on fire. It didn’t blow up.”
In the weeks after the riot, the Salt Lake City Police Department, according to the complaint, sought help from the public identifying the man who claimed to have “put the car on fire.” The FBI in Salt Lake City also offered a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of two arson suspects – up to $12,500 per suspect. Law enforcement officers received tips identifying Rojas.
Federal arson charges in the case are pending against Jackson Stuart Tamowski Patton, 26, and Latroi Devon Newbins, 28, both of Salt Lake City, who were charged earlier. Patton remains in custody. Although federal prosecutors requested Newbins be detained as well, he has been released from custody.
A complaint is not a finding of guilt. Individuals charged in a complaint are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial. The charge in the complaint has a potential sentence of 20 years in prison with a minimum-mandatory sentence of five years.
U.S. Attorney John W. Huber expressed appreciation for the coordinated effort local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies are providing as a part of the investigation. “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.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys from the Utah U.S. Attorney’s Office are prosecuting the case. Investigating agencies include members of the FBI’s JTTF, the Salt Lake City Police Department, the ATF and the Utah Department of Public Safety. U.S. Marshals, who are members of the JTTF, assisted with the arrest of Rojas.