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Press Release

2 More Defendants Charged Federally For Their Roles In Arsons During May 30th Violent Protests In Rochester

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of New York
Total Of 11 Individuals Now Face Federal Prosecution In The Western District Of New York For Their Roles In Late-May/Early-June Violence During Protests In Buffalo And Rochester

CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that two more defendants have been charged federally in two separate criminal complaints arising from May 30, 2020, violent protests held in the City of Rochester. SHAKELL SANKS, 26, and JAVON HARDY, 24, both of Rochester, NY, have been charged with arson and each face a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum of 20 years, and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Cassie M. Kocher, who is handling the prosecutions of both SANKS and HARDY, stated that on May 30, 2020, Rochester Police Department (RPD) officers were assigned to assist with crowd control during protests scheduled at the Public Safety Building (PSB) on Exchange Boulevard. During the late-afternoon/early evening, those protests, being held in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, turned violent and resulted in vandalism, damaged property, looting, and fires.

At approximately 6:00 p.m. on May 30th in downtown Rochester, defendant SANKS, assisted others in attempting to light fabric on fire. The fabric was stuffed into the gas tank of a parked car belonging to the City of Rochester Family Crisis Intervention Team (FACIT). At approximately 6:20 p.m., the FACIT car began to smoke and shortly thereafter became engulfed in flames. The car was a total loss. Defendant SANKS was eventually identified as one of several individuals involved in starting the fire and was arrested. Today, SANKS made his initial appearance in federal court. Another individual, Mackenzie Drechsler, 19, of Ontario, NY, was previously charged by criminal complaint for her role in the arson of the FACIT car.

That same day, at approximately 6:28 p.m., a 32-foot by 8-foot mobile office/construction trailer, also located in downtown Rochester and rented by the Michels Corporation of Wisconsin, was also set on fire and rendered a total loss. The mobile office contained work equipment, tools, a printer, camera, and wi-fi device. As alleged in the criminal complaint filed against him, Facebook Live video footage posted by various users shows defendant HARDY carrying a milk jug at the back door of the trailer. HARDY is then seen walking down the trailer steps and heard yelling, “Let that (expletive) burn,” and “If it’s not on fire, I didn’t do my job.” A second individual, Marquis Frasier, 27, of Rochester, was also previously charged with arson for allegedly using a Molotov Cocktail to help start the same trailer on fire. 

A total of 11 defendants have now been charged federally for their roles in violent protests in Rochester and Buffalo in May and June, 2020. In Rochester, in addition to SANKS, HARDY, Drechsler, and Frasier, Dyshika McFadden, 26, and Miguel Ramos, 19, both of Rochester, were previously charged with conspiracy to commit arson and arson, for their alleged role in burning a Rochester Police Department patrol car during the May 30, 2020, protests. In Buffalo, Keyondre Robinson,18, of Buffalo, was previously charged with assault of a federal officer, for his alleged role in throwing a bottle that struck a Deputy United States Marshal in the face during violent protests outside of the Robert H. Jackson Federal Courthouse in Buffalo on May 30, 2020; Courtland Renford, 20, of Buffalo, has been indicted and charged with arson in connection with his alleged attempt to burn down Buffalo City Hall during the May 30, protests; and Deyanna Davis, 30, Semaj Pigram, 25, and Walter Stewart, 28, all of Buffalo, were each previously indicted and charged with being felons-in-possession of a firearm, after the SUV in which they were traveling struck and seriously injured a Buffalo Police Officer and a New York State Trooper in connection with civil unrest in Buffalo, on June 1, 2020. After striking the officers, a chase ensued, and once the three were arrested, a loaded firearm and spent shell casings were discovered inside the SUV.

“The arsons, assaults, and weapons violations alleged to have been committed by these defendants are not part of any sort of righteous crusade; they are—plain and simple—criminal acts,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “This sort of behavior, combined with the recent and marked increase in violent crime and shootings across both our Nation and our District, suggests that some among us believe that violence, chaos, and lawlessness represent an appropriate path forward. They, however, are wrong. These charges reinforce the message that as Americans, we favor unity over entropy and that our greatest strength—that our very identity comes from our shared humanity and from the values and ideals we choose to uphold. Only by uniting, coming together as one, and rejecting this sort of divisive and damaging conduct can we ever hope to achieve the full promise of those values and ideals—expressed so eloquently in our Declaration of Independence—of a people who are all ‘created equal, [and] endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable rights, [including] life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’”

The most recent complaints are the result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge John B. Devito, New York Field Division; the Rochester Police Department, under the direction of Chief La’Ron Singletary; the Gates Police Department, under the direction of Chief James VanBrederode; the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Todd Baxter; the New York State Police, under the direction of Major Eric Laughton; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia; the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, under the direction of District Attorney Sandra Doorley; the Greater Rochester Area Narcotics Enforcement Team; and the Rochester Fire Department, under the direction of Fire Chief Willie Jackson.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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Updated April 10, 2023

Violent Crime