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Press Release

Two Charged with Arson During Civil Unrest in Madison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Wisconsin

MADISON, WIS. – United States Attorney Scott C. Blader announced today that two individuals have been charged with attempting to damage and destroy by means of fire two commercial buildings during the civil unrest that occurred in Madison, Wisconsin on August 25, 2020.  Anessa Fierro, 27, and Willie Johnson, 45, both of Madison, are charged in two-count complaints filed in U.S. District Court this week.

The complaints allege that Fierro and Johnson broke glass windows and doors in two commercial buildings, poured liquid from a gasoline container into the buildings, and attempted to ignite the fluid.  The complaint alleges that Fierro and Johnson successfully started a fire at one building and were attempting to ignite the liquid poured into the second building when Madison police officers arrived on scene.  According to the complaint, the second building contained residential apartments, some of which were occupied at the time of the attempted arson.  Fierro and Johnson were identified through video surveillance recovered as part of the investigation. 

Fierro and Johnson were arrested in Madison today by ATF agents and Madison police officers.  Their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Madison have not been scheduled.

“Arson is not protest, it is a crime that places the entire community at extreme risk,” said U.S. Attorney Blader.  “Those who attempt to terrorize the community through such violent crimes will be vigorously prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice.”

“Arson is a phenomenally violent crime,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Terry Henderson, of the St. Paul Field Division. “A fire can ravage buildings in mere minutes, putting every occupant or passerby at risk of serious injury or death. Arsonists must be held accountable for their actions.”

If convicted, Fierro and Johnson face a mandatory minimum penalty of five years and a maximum of 20 years in federal prison on each count. The charges against them are the result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Madison Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Chadwick M. Elgersma is handling the prosecution.

You are advised that a charge is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Updated September 23, 2020

Violent Crime