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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Pennsylvania

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, May 24, 2021

Local Man Admits Setting Fire to Pittsburgh Police Vehicle and Interfering with Law Enforcement during May 30, 2020 Protest

PITTSBURGH, PA - A resident of Allegheny County pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of conspiring to set fire to property of an organization that receives federal funding and unlawful interference with a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder, Acting United States Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman announced today.

Christopher West, 26, of Pittsburgh, PA 15210 pleaded guilty to two counts before United States District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that West attended a protest march held on May 30, 2020, in the downtown Pittsburgh area. The march was related primarily to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The march in Pittsburgh began at approximately 2:30 pm on Liberty Avenue in the downtown area, and eventually finished at approximately 4:30 pm on Centre Avenue near the intersection with Washington Place above the PPG Paints Arena. At that time, many of the participants were agitated, and one of them began vandalizing a marked Pittsburgh Bureau of Police vehicle ("Unit 3212") on Centre Avenue. The crowd was thereby incited to join in vandalizing and destroying that vehicle, and eventually set fire to that vehicle. West and co-defendant Da’Jon Lengyel climbed onto Unit 3212, and then jumped up and down on the roof of the vehicle. West also sat on the roof and attempted to kick out a window of Unit 3212. Shortly thereafter, Lengyel and West, along with two white males who have not yet been identified ("WM1 and WM2") began efforts to set fire to Unit 3212. WM1 attempted to open the hood to the engine compartment but had difficulty with it. He was then joined by WM2 and West. As they were doing this, another vocal member of the crowd, who used a megaphone throughout the destruction of Unit 3212, announced to the crowd that "they are going to light the vehicle." Finally, West was able to disengage the hood’s locking mechanism. The hood of Unit 3212 was lifted, thereby exposing the engine compartment. At that point, WM1 lit a small flame with a lighter and then tossed that lighter inside the engine compartment. However, WM1’s attempt failed, and the engine compartment did not catch fire. A few minutes later, West, Lengyel, WM1 and WM2 placed pieces of cardboard and crumpled paper into Unit 3212’s passenger compartment. WM2 then leaned into the backseat area and ignited the combustible materials that had been placed there. After the fire got going, both Lengyel and WM2 continued to add more paper products to the fire, which eventually spread throughout Unit 3212 and destroyed it.

Da’Jon Lengyel is scheduled to change his plea to guilty on Tuesday, June 1, 2021.

Judge Ranjan scheduled sentencing for October 5, 2021 at 10:00 am The law provides for a total sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of $500,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Pending sentencing, the defendant is being detained.

Assistant United States Attorney Shaun E. Sweeney is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Christopher West.

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Updated May 24, 2021