A young man in Portland faces up to 20 years in prison on arson charges, accused of hurling a bomb at a courthouse amid ongoing police brutality protests. He was identified by a tactical vest gifted to him by his grandmother.
Gabriel Agard-Berryhill, 18, was charged with arson on Friday, the US Attorney’s Office in Oregon announced in a statement. 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.
A Portland man has been charged with arson after throwing a large explosive device at the Hatfield Federal Courthouse during a protest on July 28, 2020. Investigation by @USMarshalsHQ and @ATF_Seattle. Read more: https://t.co/UTh2KnA4k5pic.twitter.com/ImmuQMBbhm
Antifa just threw what appears to be an IED at the federal courthouse. pic.twitter.com/fX1UMvsFUw
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 said the bomb’s “concussive” blast surprised him, footage of the incident captured by Ruptly appears to show him celebrating after the detonation.
You can clearly see the suspect who threw this device here. Green vest. He celebrates the success, collects some evidence and runs away. I bet there is plenty of other footage where he is visible.pic.twitter.com/kr2uOTtjMy
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.
“Investigators later found the same photo on a Facebook page and, using law enforcement databases, were able to positively identify Agard-Berryhill,” Oregon prosecutors said, 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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