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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Man Charged with Possessing Molotov Cocktails at La Mesa Protest

Assistant U. S. Attorney Andrew Haden (619) 546-6961

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – June 9, 2020

SAN DIEGO – Zachary Alexander Karas of San Diego was charged with possessing incendiary devices known as Molotov cocktails at a protest that began on May 30th in La Mesa.

According to a complaint, Karas and his girlfriend, Kali Braj Jonkuet, were sitting on the pavement at the corner of Allison Avenue and Spring Street, in front of trolley tracks, as part of the protest in La Mesa.

At the time of the protest, several fires had been set that damaged buildings and property. Officers gave orders to the crowd, including Karas, to disperse for an unlawful assembly. Karas was arrested after he failed to leave his position. After his arrest, officers discovered that Karas possessed two glass bottles with wicks that contained gasoline.  Karas also had fireworks in his possession at the time of his arrest.

A special agent with the ATF inspected the Molotov cocktails and found them to be functioning incendiary devices.

“The Constitution strongly protects the First Amendment right of all to speak out and peacefully protest,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “My office is committed to protecting that First Amendment right. Violence, however, by a relatively small number of opportunists who sought to wreak havoc, destroy property, and threaten the safety of peaceful protestors will not be tolerated.”

“ATF partners with its local, state and federal partners to work together to arrest dangerous individuals who pose the greatest threat to public safety,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge of Los Angeles Field Division Monique Villegas. “These partnerships are true force multipliers that enable law enforcement to identify, investigate and seek prosecution against individuals who act out violently within our communities.”

“The San Diego community has the right to be safe from violence and criminal activity while engaging in lawful protests,” said FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Omer Meisel.  “The possession of an incendiary device threatened the safety of the community. The FBI will continue to work closely with our state, local and federal law enforcement partners and prosecutors to protect our citizen’s right to engage in lawful protest from those individuals engaged in violence and criminal activity.”

This Karas case is the result of the ongoing efforts of the Violent Crime and Human Trafficking (VCHT) Section.  Formed in 2019, by U.S. Attorney Robert S. Brewer, Jr., the VCHT is tasked with leading collaborations between federal and local law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of cases involving violent crimes, firearms and gang cases; sex trafficking and child exploitation; civil rights, labor trafficking and alien smuggling. The VCHT Section oversees the Southern District of California Coordinators for Project Safe Neighborhoods, Human Trafficking, and Project Safe Childhood.

DEFENDANT                                               Case Number 20mj2186                                          

Zachary Alexander Karas                               Age: 28                                   San Diego, CA

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Possession of an Unregistered Destructive Device – Title 26, U.S.C., Section 5861

Maximum penalty: 10 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine

AGENCIES

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Federal Bureau of Investigation

La Mesa Police Department

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Press Release Number: 
CAS20-0609-Karas
Updated June 9, 2020