72ºF

FBI asking for tips to identity violent protesters

Protesters say they also want FBI to look at videos from Jacksonville to determine whether police used excessive force

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The FBI is asking for the public’s help to identify people who are actively instigating violence during protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Violence and property destruction across the United States interferes with peaceful demonstrations protected under the First Amendment, and the FBI said it is accepting tips, photos and videos showing violent incidents surrounding the civil unrest that is happening throughout the country.

“The FBI respects the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights. Our mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution is dual and simultaneous, not contradictory. Accordingly, we are committed to apprehending and charging violent instigators who are exploiting legitimate, peaceful protests and engaging in violations of federal law," the FBI said in a news release Monday.

If you witness or have witnessed violence, the FBI urges you to submit any information, photos or videos that could be relevant to the case at fbi.gov/violence. You may also call 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) to report tips related to this investigation.

In Jacksonville, Sheriff Mike Williams said there were 78 people arrested during demonstrations over the weekend, 16 of whom were not from Duval County.

“We can’t tell you exactly who or where some of these people came from,” Williams said at a news conference Tuesday. “Our federal partners have been a huge help in this and they will be looking at the people that we did arrest and see if there is connection there.”

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office released photos of a Molotov cocktail and a hatchet that were recovered. According to an arrest report, those items were taken to 27-year-old Ivan Zecher’s backpack.

“The tequila bottle of gasoline was packaged in the manner of a Molotov cocktail and being carried while the suspect was in the act of causing civil unrest,” the arrest report stated.

The News4Jax I-TEAM learned that Zecher was previously arrested on charges of kidnapping, domestic battery, aggravated assault without the intent to kill and assault with a deadly weapon.

But police said they don’t know if he was acting by himself or with some kind of organization.

“Can I name a group? No. Can I name a city where they came from? I can’t. We have some other people from around Florida that came up here. They may live here now. We haven’t even done the work yet to verify addresses,” the sheriff said.

Witnesses also captured footage of a man on top of police cruiser during the height of Saturday’s violence in Jacksonville and then punching an officer. That man was identified in an arrest report as 19-year-old Hubert Rivers. According to the report, Rivers also punched an officer.

Rivers is charged with assaulting a law enforcement officer, vandalism and unlawful assembly.

The I-TEAM also received a video showing a JSO officer with a protester, who appears to be restrained, and then another officer entering the scene and punching him in the face. In the video, two more officers arrive eventually, throwing punches as they put the suspect into custody.

A JSO spokesperson said Tuesday that the video is currently being administratively reviewed.

Protesters said they want the FBI to look at these videos, as well, to determine whether police used excessive force.


About the Author: