6 face federal charges for crimes committed during Charleston, Columbia riots

6 face federal charges for crimes committed during Charleston, Columbia riots
The U.S. Attorney's Office released this photo from a riot in downtown Charleston on May 30 that included the destruction of a city police cruiser. (Source: U.S. Attorney's Office)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Six people face federal charges in connection with riots that happened on May 30 and 31 in Columbia and Charleston in response to the death of George Floyd.

In the last week, federal law enforcement authorities in the District of South Carolina have charged six individuals for crimes committed during demonstrations throughout South Carolina, including arson, inciting a riot, and civil disorders. 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.
  • Kelsey Jackson, 28, of Charleston, has agreed to plead guilty to arson of a Charleston Police Department patrol car on May 30.
  • Tearra Guthrie, 23, of Charleston, has agreed to plead guilty to civil disorders related to the violence and destruction on May 30.
  • 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, 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.
  • 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.

U.S. Attorney Peter McCoy announced the charges Tuesday afternoon. He said while the “large majority” of participants exercised their First Amendments rights in a lawful manner, others engaged in violent criminal acts and threatened public safety. Those acts included assaulting citizens and law enforcement officers and vandalizing and destroying public and private property, he said.

“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,” McCoy said. “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.”

Woods was arraigned in federal court Thursday, while court dates for the remaining defendants have not been scheduled.

“The FBI remains committed to safeguarding the Constitutional rights of our citizens, including the right to peacefully protest,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Jody Norris said. “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.”

“Over the last several months, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, has maintained a strong and productive relationship with our law enforcement partners, and shared the goal of quickly identifying and apprehending those that promoted violence and criminal acts during periods of peaceful protests,” ATF Special Agent in Charge Vincent Pallozzi said. “We’ve successfully worked hand-in-hand to share resources, build cases, and bring to justice a number of violent individuals who posed a serious threat to our communities and businesses.”

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.

Copyright 2020 WCSC. All rights reserved.