Cops use social media to find man they say set Trenton police car on fire
TRENTON — Pictures and video posted on social media helped police identify and charge a second man second man accused of setting a Trenton police vehicle on fire during recent protests, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.
Peaceful protests -- prompted by the death of unarmed black man George Floyd, while being restrained under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer -- during the day on May 31 in Trenton turned violent in the evening, with crowds of people smashing windows and attempting to loot a Snipes athletic footwear store, Tony's Liquor store and a Dollar Store along State Street.
Video posted by NorthJersey.com appeared to show a crowd attacking two parked Trenton Police SUVs, breaking the vehicles' windows and then setting fire to both.
Earlja J. Dudley, 27, of Trenton was identified in one video posted to social media as standing in front of one of the vehicles and opening its hood, according to a criminal complaint. Another video showed a second individual joining Dudley and lighting an object that Dudley put into the engine well of the police vehicle, which caught fire, according to the complaint.
Investigators were able to match the baseball cap and tank top with the Roman numerals XIV and "distinctive" green, black, and white sneakers worn by Dudley in the videos to other photos of him posted to social media, according to the complaint.
Dudley was charged by complaint with one count of attempting to damage or destroy by fire a vehicle owned or possessed by an institution receiving federal financial assistance, and one count of attempting to damage or destroy by fire a vehicle used in and affecting interstate commerce.
Similarly, FBI agents arrested a Philadelphia woman Wednesday on charges she set a police vehicle there ablaze, after identifying her as a suspect based on distinctive clothing seen in pictures and following a trail of clues in public online shopping and social media profiles.
Justin Spry, 21, of South Plainfield had already been facing two federal charges of attempting to damage the Trenton police vehicle by fire.
Video posted by Spry on his Twitter account shows him being subdued on the sidewalk by several police officers. He has alleged on social media he was beaten by the police, in comments that make no mention of trying to set fire to a police car.
"On Sunday I attended a BLM protest in Trenton, NJ which was mostly peaceful until it wasn’t," he wrote on Twitter. "I was beaten viciously by about 10 state troopers before they wrestled me to the ground and I can say with confidence that if I was black I probably would’ve been killed. This is not okay."
Previous reporting by Sergio Bichao was used in this report
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