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Chicago man pleads guilty to torching police SUV amid unrest

April 9, 2021 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago man has pleaded guilty to a federal charge for setting fire to a police SUV during last year’s unrest in the city’s downtown following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

Jacob Michael Fagundo, 23, faces a likely sentence of eight to 14 months behind bars after pleading guilty Thursday to obstructing law enforcement amid a civil disorder. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 14.

Fagundo admitted to U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman that he set fire to a Chicago police SUV on May 30 amid downtown rioting after video was seen worldwide of a white Minneapolis police officer pressing his knee on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, for more than nine minutes.

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The murder trial of that former officer, Derek Chauvin, is currently underway in Minneapolis for Floyd’s May 25 death.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cooke told Gettleman that Fagundo bought fireworks, lighter fluid and other products at a department store ahead of the Floyd protests. And Fagundo admitted to the judge that he purchased those items on May 29, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Cooke said that the next day, after Fagundo joined with others and spray-painted a Chicago police vehicle, he discovered the police SUV in a garage and he and others shattered some of its windows, including its rear windshield. Fagundo then lit a firework and tossed it through the SUV’s rear window frame and fled when police arrived, Cooke said.

The prosecutor said the vehicle caught fire and was a total loss, costing the Chicago Police Department $58,125 to replace it. The judge is expected to order Fagundo to pay that amount in restitution at his sentencing, giving him credit for any amount he paid in the meantime.

Prosecutors filed federal charges against Fagundo in late March in connection with the incident.

The police SUV was burned the same days that vandals smashed their way into scores of Chicago businesses, and made off with merchandise and other items in the chaos that police at the time said led to at least two shooting deaths and dozens of arrests.

Fagundo told the judge he is about to finish his bachelor’s degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He said he was laid off in March 2020 after working as a gallery technician at the school.