CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Six people are facing federal charges for crimes that took place during riots and protests across the state back in May.
According to US Attorney Peter McCoy Jr., the six individuals – including four from the Charleston area – are facing federal charges for participating in actions including arson, inciting riots, and other civil disorder on May 30th and 31st.
The unrest came following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American who allegedly died after officers kneeled on his neck for a period of time.
Protesters in Charleston and Columbia gathered to peacefully demonstrate against racism and use of excessive force by law enforcement. And while a majority of the protests remained peaceful, others engaged in violent criminal acts and threatened public safety, including assaulting citizens and law enforcement officers and vandalizing and destroying public and private property, according to McCoy’s office.
“On May 30, 2020, violent agitators disrupted and distracted from peaceful protests in Columbia and Charleston and committed violent acts against citizens and law enforcement officers, vandalizing businesses and destroying public property,” said U.S. Attorney McCoy. “This is unacceptable and crosses a line, and this office will always stand up for law and order. We worked diligently with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to identify, arrest, and prosecute the individuals whose violence, vandalism, and destruction violated federal law. By escalating and inciting violence, these individuals interfered with the legitimate forms of expression and Constitutionally protected activity.”
Federal law enforcement authorities in the District of South Carolina have charged six individuals for crimes that were committed during demonstrations throughout South Carolina, including arson, inciting a riot, and civil disorders.
McCoy’s office said some of those defendants have agreed to plead guilty to the charged crimes.
According to public documents filed with the federal district court, the following defendants have recently been charged with, or agreed to plead guilty to, the following federal crimes:
• Abraham Jenkins, 26, of Charleston, has agreed to plead guilty to civil disorders related to the violence and destruction on May 30, 2020.
• Kelsey Jackson, 28, of Charleston, has agreed to plead guilty to arson of a Charleston Police Department patrol car on May 30, 2020.
• Tearra Guthrie, 23, of Charleston, has agreed to plead guilty to civil disorders related to the violence and destruction on May 30, 2020.
• Orlando King, 31, of North Charleston, has agreed to plead guilty to a violation of the Anti-Riot Act related to the violence and destruction on May 30, 2020, and to being a felon in possession of a firearm stemming from an unrelated incident on April 25, 2020.
• Karlos Gibson-Brown, 24, of Columbia, has agreed to plead guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition for a riot-related incident on May 31, 2020.
• Marcello Woods, 28, of Columbia, has been charged with destroying a Columbia Police Department vehicle by means of fire for riot-related conduct on May 30, 2020.
“The FBI remains committed to safeguarding the Constitutional rights of our citizens, including the right to peacefully protest,” said Jody Norris, FBI Special Agent in Charge. “We are equally committed to investigating individuals who are inciting violence and engaged in other criminal activity. We support our state, local and federal partners in maintaining the safety of the communities we serve.”
Officials say Woods was arraigned in federal court Thursday, while court dates for the remaining defendants have not been scheduled.
Several of the charges carry significant maximum prison sentences. For example, arson is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Civil disorder and inciting a riot both carry a maximum possible penalty of five years imprisonment.
These cases are being investigated by the FBI, ATF, Charleston Police Department, Columbia Police Department, Richland County Sheriff’s Department, and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED).