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Man accused of setting police car ablaze charged with arson

Police car set ablaze on 400 South 200 East on Saturday, May 30th. Picture taken by KSL Newsradio's Paul Nelson.

SALT LAKE CITY — Authorities filed federal charges Wednesday against a Salt Lake City man accused of starting a fire involving a police car during protests that turned violent last weekend. 

US Attorney for Utah John Huber said Jackson Patton, 26, was arrested Tuesday night and charged with arson Wednesday. 

Saturday, during protests over the death of an unarmed black man in police custody in Minnesota, protesters flipped the police cruiser near 400 South and 200 East.

According to the police affidavit in federal court documents, “The crowd was becoming increasingly hostile toward the officer in the vehicle, causing the officer to run away from the crowd leaving the car behind.” 

Jackson Stuart Tamowski Patton, 26, of Salt Lake City.

Minutes later, video shows several smashing the car with skateboards and other items. Huber said one of the men seen in that video was Patton. Huber said he could also be seen starting the fire. According to the filing document, he “appears to be throwing an unknown substance from what appears to be a canister into the patrol car, causing the flames to increase.” 

According to the charging documents, police arrested Patton for allegedly failing to disperse when the city’s 8 p.m. curfew took effect Tuesday night, and then recognized him from the car fire. 

“We value and support the rights we all enjoy to peacefully demonstrate and advocate for our beliefs. However, we have zero tolerance for those who hijack peaceful protests and commit violations of federal law,” U.S. Attorney John Huber said Wednesday.

For now, Patton is only charged with arson affecting interstate commerce, but that charge has teeth.

Huber says, “This is a federal felony with a maximum penalty of up to 20 years and a minimum mandatory penalty of five years.”

OTHER SUSPECTS

Patton is one of three people to be arrested in connection with the flipped police car so far. Sunday, another man, Connor Peebles, 21, turned himself in after police released surveillance photos showing people for whom they were looking. 

As Huber was speaking at Wednesday’s press conference, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown announced another person had turned himself in to the authorities.  He was later identified as LaTroi Devon Newbins, 28, from Salt Lake City.  Charging documents say Newbins was seen on video throwing what appeared to be combustible material on the flames.

Prosecutors say Newbins will face the same federal charge as Patton.

(LaTroi Devon Newbins. Salt Lake County Jail)

MORE ARRESTS POSSIBLE

Protests Tuesday night in Salt Lake City stayed mostly peaceful. Police told KSL they made a couple of other arrests related to curfew violations. 

Despite that, Huber says they aren’t finished with the investigation into Saturday’s violent protests.  He says they’re finding evidence that extremists on the far-right and the far-left came to Salt Lake City specifically to make the otherwise peaceful protests turn violent.

“We can say this is a potpourri… a gumbo of extremists who hijacked this protest,” he says.

Huber says his office is trying to find any communications between people protesting in Salt Lake and groups from other cities.  Some of the tactics and devices used in Utah were also used in other parts of the country.

“The use of a high-powered fireworks device… this isn’t made in Utah.  This took some effort to get to Utah,” Huber says.  “The [fireworks] charge that was used in the violence here in Salt Lake City on Saturday was used in Minneapolis of Friday.”

Huber also says they’re keeping a close eye on two men who were reportedly caught with multiple guns on their way to a rally on Monday with the intention of shooting police officers.  However, he isn’t sure if that case would fall under federal jurisdiction, yet.