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Press Release

Middlesex County Man Arrested for Attempting to Set Fire to Trenton Police Vehicle

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. – A Middlesex County, New Jersey, man was arrested today for attempting to set fire to a marked police vehicle in Trenton after a demonstration over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Justin Spry, 21, of South Plainfield, New Jersey, was arrested by special agents of the FBI and is charged by complaint with one count of attempting to damage or destroy by fire a vehicle owned or possessed by an institution receiving federal financial assistance, and one count of attempting to damage or destroy by fire a vehicle used in and affecting interstate commerce. Spry will make his initial appearance June 3, 2020, by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Tonianne J. Bongiovanni.

“The conduct described in the criminal complaint demonstrates a deliberate effort to destroy a police vehicle during a demonstration,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “Our office will not hesitate to bring to justice anyone who engages in this kind of destruction. We will work with our law enforcement partners to find these violent perpetrators and charge them appropriately.”

According to the complaint:

On May 31, 2020, large-scale protests were held throughout the United States, including in Trenton, in response to the death of Floyd on May 25, 2020, while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department. Although the May 31 protest in Trenton began peacefully, violence erupted later in the day. A group of individuals proceeded along East State Street in downtown Trenton and began to smash store fronts, loot businesses, and attack marked Trenton Police Department vehicles parked along East State Street.

A street camera recorded Spry and another individual attempt to stuff a piece of cloth into the gas tank of a marked police vehicle and ignite it. Law enforcement officers on scene observed Spry as he attempted to ignite the vehicle. Spry noticed the officers and attempted to flee, but was arrested.

Both counts charged in the criminal complaint carry a statutory mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of five years, a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison, and a maximum fine of $250,000.  

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI and task force officers of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Newark, as well as special agents of the FBI’s Trenton Resident Agency, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Douglas Korneski, with the investigation leading to today’s arrest. He also thanked officers of the Trenton Police Department, under the direction of Police Director Sheilah Coley; troopers of the New Jersey State Police, under the direction of Colonel Patrick J. Callahan; and officers of the New Jersey Department of Corrections, under the direction of Commissioner Marcus O. Hicks, for their assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander E. Ramey and Michelle Gasparian of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Trenton.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Updated June 2, 2020

Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 20-165