Arkansas man sentenced to 5 1/2 years for firebombing police cars during 2020 protests

Dec 8, 2023, 3:14 PM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The ringleader of a group who admitted to firebombing several police cars in Arkansas during the 2020 protests over the killing of George Floyd has been sentenced to five and a half years in federal prison, while three of his co-defendants were sentenced to 18 months each.

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Mujera Benjamin Lung’aho, a North Little Rock community organizer and activist who pleaded guilty in August to one count of malicious destruction of a vehicle by means of fire, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Friday.

Emily Nowlin, Aline Espinosa-Villegas and Renea Goddard were also sentenced in the case on Thursday. A fourth defendant, Brittany Dawn Jeffrey, was sentenced last year to time served after 17 months in pre-trial detention for her involvement.

The defendants were charged in the firebombing and attempted firebombing of police cars in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Shannon Hills and the Arkansas State Police headquarters, and with defacing gravestones in Oakwood Historic Cemetery and a billboard.

All five were accused of damage inflicted on public property, including slashing tires, firebombing and attempting to firebomb police cars, that occurred during protests in the summer and fall over the police killings of Floyd and other Black people. Floyd’s death in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests in 2020 over racial injustice and police brutality.

In addition to the prison sentences, Lung’aho will serve three years of supervised released while his co-defendants will serve a year and a half.

U.S. Attorney Jonathan D. Ross called the firebombings “a troubling escalation of gratuitous violence that seeks to stoke embers of anarchy in our community.”

“The Constitution protects our rights to peacefully assemble. But make no mistake, when you use violence to advance your agenda, the Department of Justice will make every effort to put you in prison,” Ross said in a statement after the sentences were handed down. “Anyone engaging in such criminal activity will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

In a lengthy statement, Lung’aho said his lack of apology was not because of a lack of remorse but “because there is a documented history” of people protesting “in the right way” but gaining little ground.

Lung’aho said his remorse was “for the effect my actions had on my community.” Lung’aho said he believed his actions were necessary to draw attention to what he believed were “injustices inflicted on the Black community.”

Before announcing his sentence, U.S. District Judge D.P. Marshall said that although Lung’aho’s actions did not qualify as violent crimes, “this was violent,” and he said the prosecution of Lung’aho was lawful.

“Our law cannot tolerate the violence that was engaged in,” he said. “I see nothing in the conduct of the United States contrary to the cause of justice.”

National News

Associated Press

Disneyland character and parade performers in California vote to join labor union

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Disneyland performers who help bring Mickey Mouse, Cinderella and other beloved characters to life at the Southern California resort chose to unionize following a three-day vote culminating on Saturday. The Actors’ Equity Association labor union said in a statement Saturday that cast members for the parades and characters departments at Disney’s […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Dive team finds bodies of 2 men dead inside plane found upside down in Alaska lake

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The bodies of two men have been recovered from a plane that was found face down in a lake, Alaska State Troopers said Saturday. Troopers were notified late Friday of the upside-down aircraft in Six Mile Lake near the Athabascan community of Nondalton, located about 200 miles (322 kilometers) southwest of […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

Man suspected of shooting 6-month-old son in hostage standoff near Phoenix apparently killed himself

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — A man suspected of shooting his 6-month-old son multiple times after taking the boy and his mother hostage was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in the rubble of a suburban Phoenix home that caught fire during a SWAT standoff, police said Saturday. The boy was reported in critical […]

10 hours ago

Image: A person wears a T-shirt with the names of Kristin Smith, Charity Lynn Perry, Joanna Speaks,...

Associated Press

Man probed in deaths of women in northwest Oregon indicted in 3 killings

A man who has been under investigation in the deaths of four women whose bodies were found across northwest Oregon has been indicted.

11 hours ago

Associated Press

6 people killed, 10 others injured in Idaho when pickup crashes into passenger van

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Six people were killed Saturday in Idaho in a two-car accident that included a large passenger van, authorities said. Ten others were injured in the crash on U.S. Highway 20 in Idaho Falls and taken to local hospitals, Idaho State Police said in a statement. An eastbound pickup crossed the […]

13 hours ago

Image: The headquarters for The Boeing Company can be seen in Arlington, Virginia, on Jan. 31, 2024...

Associated Press

Police conclude investigation into suicide of Boeing whistleblower

A former manager who raised safety questions about the aircraft maker and, later, was found dead took his own life, police said Friday.

17 hours ago

Arkansas man sentenced to 5 1/2 years for firebombing police cars during 2020 protests