A San Diego man was convicted on Tuesday of bringing Molotov cocktails to last year's police brutality protest at La Mesa police headquarters.
Zachary Alexander Karas was found guilty of possession of an unregistered destructive device following a two-day jury trial in San Diego federal court.
Prosecutors alleged Karas had two glass bottles containing gasoline and wicks while at the protest, which began May 30 and carried over into the morning of May 31.
La Mesa Riot
More on the 2020 unrest.
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According to a prosecutor's trial brief, officers spotted Karas and his girlfriend sitting on the pavement at the corner of Allison Avenue and Spring Street around 2 a.m. May 31.
Karas was arrested for not leaving the area after dispersal orders were given by law enforcement, following the declaration of an unlawful assembly, according to the filing, which says Karas initially left the protest in the afternoon but returned around 1 a.m. as he "said he was angry and wanted to destroy something but claimed he did not plan to injure any people."
In an interview with law enforcement, "Karas indicated that he had made the Molotov cocktails and brought them to the area of the police station because he intended to set fires," prosecutors wrote. "Karas claimed he eventually changed his mind and was not responsible for any of the fires that were set that night."
Fires were ignited at the Chase and Union Bank branches and Randall Lamb Associates building near the site of the protest. State prosecutors have charged several people with arson and other crimes in connection with those fires, as well as looting that occurred at businesses near the police station.
Karas' sentencing was set for Aug. 13. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the possession of an unregistered destructive device count carries a maximum possible penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.