‘Influencer’ who torched police station in George Floyd riot is called ‘a good person who made a mistake’ by judge

A TIKTOK influencer who set fire to a police station during a protest over George Floyd’s death was called a “good person who made a terrible mistake” by a judge on Tuesday.

Bryce Michael Williams, 27, is one of four men who have pleaded guilty to torching a Minneapolis police station in May last year in the wake of Floyd’s killing.

Minneapolis Police Department

Bryce Michael Williams, 27, is one of four men who have pleaded guilty to torching a Minneapolis police station in May last year[/caption]

Minneapolis Police Department

Williams entered the police station holding a molotov cocktail[/caption]

AFP

Flames from a nearby fire illuminate protesters standing ona barricade in front of the Third Police Precinct on May 28, 2020[/caption]

On Monday, Williams was sentenced to two years and three months behind bars and ordered to pay $12 million in restitution for the damage he and his three accomplices caused.

While delivering the sentence, US District Judge Patrick Schiltz called him a “good person who made a terrible mistake” – citing the character assessment as the reason imposed a shorter prison sentence than prescribed by federal guidelines.

However, Schiltz turned down Williams’ request for probation, describing him as a leader – “not a follower” – in the violent mob that laid siege to the police station during the unrest.

On May 28th, 2020, three days after Floyd’s death, a crowd of more than 1,000 people gathered outside the precinct chanting “burn it down, burn it down” as they tore down a fence surrounding the building.

Williams was among them and later entered the station wielding a molotov cocktail.

AP

On May 28th, 2020, three days after Floyd’s death, a crowd of more than 1,000 people gathered outside the precinct chanting ‘burn it down’[/caption]

Minneapolis Police Department

Dylan Shakespeare Robinson is seen lighting a molotiv before throwing it inside the building[/caption]

The former college basketball star-turned-social media influencer entered the precinct with three others men: Davon De-Andre Turner, 25, Branden Michael Wolfe, 23, and Dylan Shakespeare Robinson.

Williams lit his molotov cocktail, which was then used by Turner to start the fire close to the entrance. He then threw a box on top of the blaze to accelerate the flames.

He documented the riot on video and posted the images to TikTok, where he quickly amassed a following of more than 150,000.

Williams, Turner, Wolf, and Robinson were each indicted by a grand jury on one count each of conspiracy to commit arson. All of them pleaded guilty.

Turner was sentenced to three years in prison, Robinson received a four-year sentence, and Wolfe got three years and five months. All of them must help pay for the restitution.

Speaking to the Star Tribune earlier this year, Williams, who is bi-racial, said: “George Floyd helped me figure out who I am, 100 percent.”

AP

Buildings surrounding the police precinct were also destroyed[/caption]

AFP

The GM Tobacco store is seen in flames near the Minneapolis Police third precinct[/caption]

AFP

Protesters try to break into the Third Police Precinct on May 28 – hours before the fire was started[/caption]

Crow Wing County

Dylan Shakespeare Robinson was sentenced to four years in prison[/caption]

During a court appearance on Monday, he said that he was ashamed of his behavior during the riot and said he won’t “forget the pain and agony” he helped cause.

Since being charged, he said he found a steady job working in security, has stopped drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. He also said he has been focusing on his father and being a good father.

“Please have mercy on me when you sentence me,” he pleaded to Schiltz.

Judge Schiltz said Williams – the first of the four men to plead guilty – had “done everything right” since his arrest. 

He added that it was “easy to understand” why George Floyd’s killing affected him but said prison time was warranted because of the key role he played in the riot.

Schlitz said Williams wasn’t aware how many people were in the building when he helped start the fire, meaning innocent lives could’ve been lost.

The judge added that he will recommend that Williams be placed at a lock-up in Duluth, Minnesota, where he can be near to his family.

Williams was ordered to surrender to prison on July 13.

George Floyd’s death on Memorial Day last year sparked global racial injustice protests, that lasted in some cities for several months – including Minneapolis.

The cop responsible for his death, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of murder in April.

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