Gabriel Agard-Berryhill, 18, was charged with arson on Friday, the US Attorney’s Office in Oregon announced in a statement, according to RT.
The man is said to have thrown “a large explosive device” at a federal courthouse in Portland during a protest on Tuesday, which prosecutors argue could have “gravely injured law enforcement officers positioned near the courthouse, other protesters standing nearby, or himself”.
“The violent opportunists engaged in dangerous acts of violence, such as arson, need to realize there will be grave consequences,” said Russel Burger, a US Marshal.
“Serious crimes of this nature go beyond mere property damage to the courthouse and endanger people’s lives,” Burger added.
Antifa just threw what appears to be an IED at the federal courthouse. pic.twitter.com/fX1UMvsFUw
— Brittany (@Brittany3l) July 28, 2020
Agard-Berryhill maintains he was not aware of the device’s explosive power, believing it was a small firework when it was given to him by another protester. But while he stated the bomb’s “concussive” blast surprised him, footage of the incident captured by Ruptly appears to show him celebrating after the detonation.
In a bizarre twist, according to prosecutors, Agard-Berryhill’s identity was discovered thanks to an internet review for a military-style tactical vest penned by the accused’s grandmother, who wrote, “I got this for my grandson who’s a protester downtown, he uses it every night and says it does the job”, leaving a five-star rating and a photo of a young man wearing the vest, alleged to be the bomb-thrower.
Apparently the guy who threw an explosive at the federal courthouse in Portland has been identified in a review of the vest his grandma bought for him to riot in. You couldn't make this up. pic.twitter.com/t0niw3boUN
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) July 28, 2020
“Investigators later found the same photo on a Facebook page and, using law enforcement databases, were able to positively identify Agard-Berryhill,” Oregon prosecutors noted, citing a joint probe by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the US Marshals Service.
Agard-Berryhill made his first appearance in federal court on Friday, and has since been ordered released “pending further court proceedings”. He faces up to two decades behind bars for the arson charge, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years.
Protests have raged in Portland for some two months straight, kicked off amid a wave of similar demonstrations nationwide following the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man. The protests have frequently descended into violence, seeing activists clash with law enforcement on a nightly basis for weeks on end as they besiege the city’s federal courthouse. Federal agents were deployed to Portland earlier in July to protect historical monuments and other government property, which have become common targets for activists in recent months. Though the agents have struck a withdrawal deal with local authorities, US President Donald Trump has vowed to deploy National Guard troops to the city should the unrest continue, recently slamming the protests as a “beehive of terrorists”.
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