JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man is facing federal weapons charges after police reported finding a Molotov cocktail in his backpack during a protest against police brutality.
Ivan Jacob Zecher, 27, was charged Friday with possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and unlawful possession of an unregistered firearm, according to a criminal complaint. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in federal prison on each count.
During a May 31 protest in downtown Jacksonville that was related to the Minneapolis police custody death of George Floyd, Zecher was part of a group of protesters blocking traffic and throwing objects at police officers and cars, the complaint said. Officers arrested Zecher after he refused orders to disperse, police said.
An officer noticed liquid leaking from Zecher’s backpack, and a search of the bag revealed a liquor bottle filled with gasoline, along with a lighter and a hatchet, the complaint said. Officers said Zecher told them that he was holding the bottle for an associate and knew it contained gasoline.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined that the bottle constituted a “Molotov cocktail,” which is an incendiary bomb and destructive device. It’s considered a firearm under federal law. As a previously convicted felon, prosecutors said Zecher is prohibited from possessing a firearm. He was convicted in 2014 of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Zecher’s attorney, Marcus Barnett, said he’s representing several people who were arrested while exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly during recent Jacksonville protests. Barnett said he was still working to gather all the details in Zecher’s case and wants to make sure he was detained and searched legally.