Man pleads guilty in police car fire at George Floyd protest

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man who admitted to setting a police vehicle on fire during protests in Philadelphia over the police killing of George Floyd has pleaded guilty to federal charges.

Carlos Matchett, 32, of Atlantic City, New Jersey, pleaded guilty Friday to felony counts of obstructing law enforcement during a civil disorder and traveling to incite a riot, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. In exchange for the pleas, prosecutors agreed to drop arson charges that would have carried a seven-year mandatory minimum prison term.

Matchett, who is to be sentenced in February, is the fourth defendant to acknowledge having set police cars ablaze during a mass demonstration outside Philadelphia’s City Hall in May 2020. He was also charged in an Atlantic City protest the next day that began peacefully but ended up with theft and vandalism at outlet stores.

According to a criminal complaint, police in New Jersey arrested Carlos Matchett at the scene with a folding knife, a hatchet and a jar containing what appeared to be gasoline. Authorities alleged that he had a social media page containing a post stating “LETS START a RIOT” and video showing him urging people to enter a store.

Matchett admitted in court that he set fire to an overturned police car in Philadelphia, saying he sprayed the car with lighter fluid before throwing the whole bottle into the burning car. He also acknowledged having livestreamed his efforts to encourage looting in Atlantic City.

Three other people remain accused of setting police cars ablaze in Philadelphia during the demonstration; one awaits sentencing and two face trial.

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