For Immediate Release
Indictments Issued, Rewards Still Offered in Open ATF Arson Cases
WASHINGTON — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Washington Field Division today announced that while many of the arson fires occurring during the late May/early June civil unrest in D.C. have resulted in arrests and indictments, investigations continue and suspects are still at large in the aftermath of other arson fires.
Most notably is the St. John’s Episcopal Church fire. ATF continues to offer a $25,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and prosecution of person(s) responsible for the arson that occurred in Washington at approximately 10:30 p.m. Sunday, May 31 at the church, located at 1525 H Street NW.
Additionally, suspects are wanted in a fire set in a park services building located in Lafayette Park during demonstrations on the evening of May 31. The building, near the White House, is operated by the National Park Service. The reward stands at up to $10,000.
Information is also wanted on possible suspects in the arson fire at the AFL-CIO building, located at 815 16th Street NW. The fire occurred at approximately 10:30 p.m. on May 31. Two persons were arrested for breaking into the building. The reward stands at up to $15,000.
“ATF continues to vigorously pursue those individuals who attempted to burn down numerous public and privately-owned buildings during demonstrations here in Washington. Such callous actions showed no regard for potential large-scale destruction or public safety,” said ATF Washington Special Agent in Charge Ashan M. Benedict. “ATF, with our Arson and Explosives Task Force, has been working these cases since day one and remains fully committed to making those criminals who are still at large answer for their crimes.”
While the ATF/DC Arson & Explosives Task Force, which includes the Metropolitan Police Department, DC Fire & EMS, and ATF, continue to pursue leads in the open arson cases, a majority of the civil unrest arson cases have resulted in arrests and charges brought against the defendants.
“The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, together with the ATF Washington Field Division are working tirelessly to identify and prosecute the individuals responsible for the St. John’s Episcopal Church fire and other arsons around the city of Washington, D.C.,” said Michael R. Sherwin, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. “These violent acts needlessly jeopardized the safety and security of our community. We will persist in our efforts until these perpetrators are brought to justice.”
Defendants currently under indictment for criminal activity during the civil unrest include:
- On April 22, defendant Ashton Nesmith was arrested after he allegedly threw a “Molotov Cocktail” at an MPD Police Officer in a police vehicle while the officer was parking his vehicle in front of the Sixth District Police Station located in NE Washington, D.C. Nesmith has been indicted for arson; using a destructive device during a crime of violence; and unlawful possession of a destructive device. This case is being prosecuted in U.S. District Court by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
- On May 29, defendant Jerritt J. Pace was arrested after allegedly attempting to burn down the Fourth District Police Station located in NW Washington, D.C. Pace has been indicted for receiving an explosive in interstate commerce with the intent to use it unlawfully to damage or destroy a building; using an instrumentality of interstate commerce to willfully threaten to destroy a building by means of fire or explosive; attempted arson of a building used in or affecting interstate commerce; and commits, or attempt to commit, any act to interfere with law enforcement officer’s performance of official duties during a civil disorder. This case is being prosecuted in U.S. District Court by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia
- On May 31, numerous rioters broke windows out and set a fire inside the lobby of the AFL-CIO National Headquarters building located in NW Washington, D.C. Investigators later identified Josue E. Rodas and Miriam Ortega as the first to break into the building. Additionally, both individuals were identified as allegedly being involved in a robbery at a nearby Wells Fargo Bank the same evening. On June 11, 2020, Rodas and Ortega were arrested and both have since been indicted each on one count of bank robbery and two counts of 2nd degree burglary. This case is being prosecuted in U.S. District Court by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
- On May 31, rioters broke into and multiple fires were set inside a Starbucks Coffee shop located in NW Washington, D.C. Investigators later identified Edwin Garcia-Salmeron as the person responsible for allegedly setting one of the fires. On July 15, 2020, Garcia-Salmeron was arrested and charged with arson. This case is being prosecuted in U.S. District Court by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
- On June 02, defendant Raequan J. Dyson was arrested near the White House for being in possession of an imitation pistol (BB gun) and for unlawfully possessing an explosive device. This case is being prosecuted in Superior Court for the District of Columbia by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The ATF/DC Arson and Explosives Task Force is working with the Secret Service to provide assistance regarding this investigation.
- On June 24, defendants Jorryn Campfield, Ronald Gooding, and Emily Kerl were arrested for allegedly being involved with setting a fire / destruction of property near the Lincoln Emancipation Memorial Statue located in Lincoln Park in SE Washington, D.C. This case is being prosecuted in Superior Court by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. The ATF/DC Arson and Explosives Task Force is working with the U.S. Park Police to provide assistance regarding this investigation.
- On July 15, defendant Cody M. Tarner was arrested for allegedly setting fire to a U.S. Supreme Court Police vehicle and damaging another government vehicle parked at the U.S. Supreme Court located in NE Washington, D.C. The defendant was seriously burned/injured in this incident. This case is being prosecuted in U.S. District Court by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. The ATF/DC Arson and Explosives Task Force is working with the U.S. Supreme Court Police regarding this investigation.
- On June 30, the ATF/DC Arson and Explosives Task Force initiated an investigation into the unlawful sale/distribution/ transportation of illegal explosive devices into the District of Columbia. After months of investigation, Brittany Adams and Steven Benson were arrested on Sept. 25, 2020. Both defendants have been indicted for the unlawful distribution of explosive devices and for conspiracy to distribute explosive devices. This case is being prosecuted in U.S. District Court by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
Anyone with information on the outstanding cases is asked to contact the ATF tip line 1-888-ATF-Fire / (888) 283-3473 or the MPD Command Information Center at (202) 727-9099. Information can also be sent to ATFTips@atf.gov, through ATF’s website at www.atf.gov/contact/atftips.
Tips can also be sent anonymously via the reportit® app using ATF Washington Field Division as the location. It is available through the Google Play Store, Apple App Store, and at www.reportit.com.
ATF is the lead federal law enforcement agency with jurisdiction involving violent crime investigations involving arson and arson-for-profit and conducting fire scene examinations. More information about ATF and its programs is available at www.atf.gov.