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Four arrested in fire bombing, attempted fire bombing of police vehicles in Little Rock area

by Joseph Flaherty | December 17, 2020 at 4:38 p.m.
Police lights are shown in this file photo.

4:09 p.m.

The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Arkansas released the names of the individuals facing federal charges related to the fire bombing and attempted fire bombing of police vehicles earlier this year.

In addition to Brittany Jeffrey and Aline Espinosa-Villegas, 27-year-old Emily Nowlin and 22-year-old Renea Goddard face federal charges. Jeffrey, Espinosa-Villegas and Goddard are currently being held in the Pulaski County jail, according to an inmate roster.

Allison Bragg, an assistant U.S. attorney, said Nowlin is in custody after turning herself in this afternoon.

According to a news release from U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland’s office, cooperating witnesses said Molotov cocktails that were thrown into the parking lot of the Little Rock Police Department’s 12th Street Substation in August were assembled at Jeffrey’s residence.

Law enforcement officials also were told by witnesses that Goddard, Nowlin and Espinosa-Villegas were responsible for vandalism at Arkansas State Police headquarters in Little Rock on Aug. 28, and cell phone data confirmed their phones were in the area of the headquarters that day, according to the release. During the incident, one police vehicle was set on fire, one was vandalized with spray-paint and other vehicles had punctured tires, according to the prosecutor’s office.

The individuals face charges including malicious destruction of property belonging to an entity receiving federal funds, conspiracy to commit those acts and possession of a destructive device, Hiland’s office said.

3:25 p.m.

A leader of recent racial justice demonstrations in Little Rock was arrested and jailed Thursday, records show, and the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Arkansas has announced a 3 p.m. news conference “regarding the fire bombing of local law enforcement vehicles in the central Arkansas area.”

The activist, 31-year-old Brittany Jeffrey, and 24-year-old Aline Espinosa-Villegas were being held Thursday morning in the Pulaski County detention facility on charges from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to the jail roster.

Jeffrey, who goes by the name Dawn, is a community activist who has helped to lead a series of racial justice protests in Little Rock, including demonstrations at area Walmarts over the summer. On Tuesday evening, she addressed city officials at the Little Rock Board of Directors meeting on the subject of police funding.

In a statement issued Thursday on Twitter, the Little Rock Police Department said police had assisted ATF officials in serving federal warrants related to incidents at police facilities over the summer, including an incident where Molotov cocktails were thrown at police vehicles. The incidents occurred in August and September.

“The ATF is leading this investigation and all involved have been taken into federal custody, awaiting arraignment,” Little Rock police said.

When reached by email, ATF spokesman Jeffrey Nowakowski said more details on the morning operation could be provided at the news conference.

In August, authorities said unexploded incendiary devices were discovered at the Little Rock Police 12th Street Substation, along with slashed tires on four police vehicles.

Earlier this year, federal authorities accused 30-year-old Mujera Benjamin Lungaho of firebombing a North Little Rock Police Department squad car using a Molotov cocktail. A federal grand jury indictment handed up in October charged him with conspiracy to maliciously damage property with an explosive, malicious use of an explosive device to damage property and use of an incendiary device in a crime of violence.

Prior to the grand jury indictment, Little Rock police had arrested Lungaho on Sept. 3 in connection to vandalism of Confederate markers at the Oakland and Fraternal Historic Cemetery that occurred in July. An obelisk marking a mass grave of Confederate soldiers was spray-painted in the incident.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Tricia Harris allowed Lungaho to be released from custody, with certain conditions.

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