Out-of-town man charged in Trenton mayhem after George Floyd protest
TRENTON — The FBI has charged a South Plainfield man with trying to set a Trenton police vehicle on fire during unrest that unfolded Sunday evening after a demonstration against police violence.
Justin Spry, 21, is facing two federal charges of attempting to damage the police vehicle by fire, facing five to 20 years in prison if found guilty.
Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that a street camera recorded Spry and another person trying to stuff cloth into the gas tank of the marked police vehicle and try to light it on fire. Prosecutors said Spry tried to make a run for it after cops caught them in the act.
Video posted by Spry on his Twitter account shows him being subdued on the sidewalk by several police officers. He claims he was beaten by the police and makes 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. "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."
Days earlier, he posted: "Can we start these riots everywhere? I’m down to use all of my privilege for anti racism smoke"
The demonstration, one of many across New Jersey and the nation this weekend sparked by the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill, began peacefully. Later on, however, several people on East State Street smashed shop windows and attacked police vehicles.
Officials said two police cars were set on fire. Trenton Police Director Sheilah Coley on Sunday night apologized for the "shameful, the disrespectful way that the city where I am employed has decided to honor Floyd's memory."
Spry, who is white, did not immediately respond to New Jersey 101.5's request for comment on the charges against him.
On Twitter after his arrest, Spry said that he was "held in custody for 17 hours with no food or water until the last hour of being held."
New Jersey U.S. Attorney Carpenito said his office "will not hesitate to bring to justice anyone who engages in this kind of destruction. We will work with our law enforcement partners to find these violent perpetrators and charge them appropriately.”
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.