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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Columbia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 24, 2020

District Man Charged in Federal Court for Throwing a Molotov Cocktail at an Occupied Police Car

Defendant Held Without Bond Pending Trial

            WASHINGTON – Ashton Nesmith, 23, of Washington, DC, was charged yesterday in federal court with arson and explosives offenses for tossing a Molotov cocktail at an occupied police car at the Sixth District Police Station in Northeast, announced Timothy J. Shea, United States Attorney for the District of Columbia; Ashan Benedict, Special Agent in Charge (SAC), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); and Peter Newsham, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

            The criminal complaint charges Nesmith with arson, using and discharging a destructive device during a crime of violence, and possession of a destructive device.  According to law enforcement and fire investigators, the destructive device was a Molotov cocktail designed to explode on impact. 

            “We will not tolerate attacks on police officers in the District of Columbia. The conduct alleged in the criminal complaint posed grave danger to DC Metropolitan Police Department officers, at a time when officers continue to risk their lives to serve and protect the public during this time of crisis.  The charges filed in this case should serve as a warning to anyone who would consider resorting to violence against law enforcement or anyone else as we face the current health crisis,” said U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Shea.

            “This was a callous attack on law enforcement with potentially disastrous results, and we are grateful that the suspect is in custody,” said ATF Washington Special Agent in Charge Ashan M. Benedict. “ATF, with our Arson and Explosives Task Force, is fully on the job and continues to work these cases. We are being diligent with the health and safety of our agents and others, but also fully committed to making criminals answer for their crimes.”

            The complaint alleges that on the evening of April 22, 2020, an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) was parking a police car in front of the Sixth District Police Station located in the 5000 block of Hayes Street, Northeast, Washington, D.C., when Nesmith walked toward the officer while holding the Molotov cocktail.  Nesmith lit the device and threw it at the MPD officer, the complaint alleges.  The Molotov cocktail struck the vehicle, bounced off, and exploded.  The officer escaped injury.  The complaint alleges that Nesmith fled the scene, but was chased by officers and apprehended. 

            A Criminal Complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct for purposes of establishing probable cause, not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.  Upon conviction, Nesmith faces a 35-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment.

            After arrest, on April 23, 2020, Nesmith appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, where he was ordered detained pending trial.              

            In announcing the charges, U.S. Attorney Shea, SAC Benedict, and Chief Newsham, commended the work of the MPD officers and ATF agents who apprehended the defendant and are investigating the incident.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sara Vanore, Lisa Walters, and Nicole Battle of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. 

Press Release Number: 
20-061
Updated April 24, 2020