Florida man guilty of setting store on fire during unrest

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man was convicted Tuesday of setting fire to a sporting goods store and shopping center in Tampa during unrest that followed protests over the death of George Floyd last year.

Terrance Lee Hester Jr., 20, pleaded guilty in Tampa federal court to damaging or destroying by fire a building used in interstate commerce, according to court records. He faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 5 years and up to 20 years in prison, the Department of Justice said in a news release.

Hester was identified in surveillance video as throwing a flaming piece of cloth into a Champs Sports store through a broken window last May, according to a criminal complaint. The damage to the store and other businesses in the plaza was estimated at $1.25 million.

The Champs store was one of several businesses in a commercial district of Tampa that were damaged or looted following what had been a peaceful protest over the May 2020 death of Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for several minutes.

Hester surrendered to federal authorities in Oswego, New York, last July. That same month, a state prosecutor in Tampa filed rioting and looting charges against dozens of people for ransacking stores, causing destruction and fighting with police officers the same night as the Champs fire.

A sentencing date was not immediately set.

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