SALT LAKE CITY – A federal complaint unsealed Tuesday charges a fourth individual with one count of arson for using fire to destroy a Salt Lake City Police Department vehicle during May 30, 2020, riots in Salt Lake City.
An arrest warrant was issued for Lateesha Richards, also known as Lateesha Kahryn Ritchards, 24, of Salt Lake City on June 18, 2020. While she has yet to turn herself in to the U.S. Marshals Service, she appeared via Zoom with her attorney for an initial appearance Wednesday afternoon. U.S. Magistrate Judge Jared Bennett found her to be a danger to the community and ordered her detained pending trial. He ordered her to turn herself in by Friday morning.
During the afternoon of May 30, 2020, a peaceful protest in downtown Salt Lake City transitioned into acts of destruction, property damage, arson, and other criminal conduct. During the riot, a Salt Lake City police officer, driving a police vehicle, became boxed-in and immobilized by surrounding protestors. Fearing for her safety, the officer fled from her patrol car. Her patrol vehicle was subsequently overturned, vandalized, looted, and then set on fire. Video footage from the event shows individual rioters using fire and explosives to damage and destroy the police vehicle.
At the detention hearing Wednesday afternoon, federal prosecutors told the court that approximately 200 rounds of ammunition for a handgun and 90 rounds of rifle ammunition were in the car when the officer was forced to it. Video shown as evidence during the detention hearing shows the ammunition exploding during the fire.
Federal authorities are filing arson charges against those allegedly responsible for burning the patrol vehicle.
Video footage from the riot shows an individual, later identified by police as Richards, holding a cell phone in her right hand as she walks toward the overturned police car. Richards is then observed taking a selfie with the burning police car as the background. Richards walked away from the patrol car momentarily and then returned to the patrol car holding what appears to be an item of clothing in her right hand. The complaint alleges she bent down facing the burning patrol car and tossed the item onto the small flames before running away.
The complaint alleges the clothing item Richards threw onto the fire acted as kindling and increased the size of flames. Shortly after, the vehicle becomes engulfed in flames. According to the complaint, Richards returned to the area with Latroi Newbins, another defendant in the arson case, to take more selfies with the burning police car in the background. Law enforcement officers identified Richards based on her driver’s license photo, a booking photo, and a neck tattoo, according to the complaint.
Federal arson charges in the case are also pending against Jackson Stuart Tamowski Patton, 26, Latroi Devon Newbins, 28, and Christopher Rojas, 28, all of Salt Lake City, who were charged earlier. Patton remains in custody. Newbins and Rojas have been released on conditions of pretrial release. In addition to complaints filed in the case, Patton, Newbins, Rojas and Richards are charged with arson in a one-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on July 23, 2020.
Complaints and indictments are not findings of guilt. Individuals charged in a complaint or indictment are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in court. Arson carries a potential sentence of 20 years in prison with a minimum-mandatory five-year sentence.
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.