La Mesa

Man Accused of Having Molotov Cocktails During Riot in La Mesa

Union Bank in La Mesa Charred
NBC 7, Ramon Galindo

A San Diego man accused of having Molotov cocktails in his possession during a riot two weekends ago in La Mesa faces up to a decade behind bars.

Zachary Alexander Karas, 28, was arrested May 30 near the intersection of Spring Street and Allison Avenue in the city's downtown area hours after a peaceful protest at the police station two blocks away.

As night fell the protest was "hijacked," according to Mayor Mark Arapostathis, by instigators who wanted to "burn the city down."

La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis told NBC 7's Catherine Garcia that Saturday's events in La Mesa were an attack by hijackers of peaceful protests.

By the time of Karas' arrest several property fires had already been set, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The La Mesa Police Department on Tuesday released a complete timeline of events from the night of May 30.

Karas was arrested two blocks away from police department headquarters and the La Mesa Springs Shopping Center where looting, arson and vandalism occurred.

Karas allegedly failed to comply with orders to depart an unlawful assembly, and is accused of having two glass bottles containing gasoline wicks as well as fireworks, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. A special agent with the ATF determined the bottles were "functioning incendiary devices."

Karas is charged with one count of possession of an unregistered destructive device and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and $25,000 fine if found guilty.

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