PITTSBURGH – Brian Bartels of suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was charged today with obstruction of law enforcement during a civil disorder in the City of Pittsburgh over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Bartels allegedly initiated the damage to a police car outside of PPG Paints Arena, including spraying painting the car and smashing its windshield. After others joined him, the car was set on fire.
Bartels, 20, has been charged with civil disorder for attempting to obstruct or interfere with law enforcement officers engaged in responding to the violent demonstration in Pittsburgh on May 30, 2020.
"His backpack loaded with rocks and spray paint, Bartels came to Saturday’s protest in Pittsburgh to incite violence. Bartels’s actions turned an otherwise peaceful protest into a violent riot that resulted in an evening of destruction throughout downtown Pittsburgh," said U.S. Attorney Scott Brady. "Anyone who would do the same should know this - if you try to hijack a peaceful protest for your own violent agenda, we will use every tool at our disposal to find you and prosecute you."
"The FBI is dedicated to upholding the Constitution and protecting all citizens' rights to peacefully protest," said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman. "We are committed to identifying, investigating and stopping people who incite violence. This type of behavior and destruction of property puts the rights and safety of our citizens, including peaceful demonstrators, at risk. It will not be tolerated. Our focus is also on supporting our law enforcement partners with maintaining public safety in the very communities we’re sworn to protect."
According to the criminal complaint, on May 30, 2020, there was a planned protest, related to the recent death of George Floyd, in the downtown area of the City of Pittsburgh. At approximately 2:30 p.m. on Centre Avenue above PPG Arena, as the participants were gathering, the march/protest began to turn violent and into civil disorder. Videos of the area show a white male, later identified as Bartels, walking from within the crowd of protesters, wearing a black bandana and a black hooded sweatshirt. The male walks to the sidewalk near an unoccupied police vehicle and accesses a backpack that was on the sidewalk. He pulls out a can of red spray paint and proceeds to use it to place paint on the police vehicle. The male then kicks the police vehicle, and then throws an object at the police car, breaking a window. At least three other individuals join the white male to inflict damage to the police vehicle, by kicking it and hitting it with various objects. The white male thereafter jumps on the hood of the police vehicle and stomps the partially broken windshield, breaking it further. He then jumps down from the police vehicle, retrieves additional items to throw at the police vehicle and continues to throw those items at the police vehicle.
As Bartels continued this destruction of the police vehicle, several other people from the crowd begin to join him in inflicting damage to the police car. At this point, police mounted on horseback arrive and attempt to protect the car and push the crowd back. However, the crowd is hostile toward the mounted police and begins to throw rocks and other objects at the police and horses. When it becomes apparent that the horses are unable to protect the heavily damaged car, and are themselves in danger, the police officers are forced to retreat on horseback and abandon the police car. Immediately thereafter, the crowd inflicts more severe damage to the police vehicle, and then sets it on fire.
On May 31, 2020, law enforcement officers investigating this incident received numerous tips identifying Bartels as the white male described above, as videos of his conduct were online. On June 1, 2020, Bartels was interviewed at a Pittsburgh police station. During that interview, Bartels admitted that he was the white male who had committed the acts, he had purchased several cans of spray paint and placed them in his backpack so that he could take them to the march/protest, and he had also placed several rocks in his backpack for use the next day.
The civil disorder charge provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaun Sweeney is prosecuting the case.
The FBI Pittsburgh Joint Terrorism Task Force, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, conducted the investigation leading to the criminal complaint in this case.
The details contained in the criminal complaint are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Bartels Criminal Complaint, Affidavit, and Exhibits