A man who brought Molotov cocktails to a Southern California police brutality protest was sentenced Friday to 33 months in federal prison.
Zachary Alexander Karas, 29, of San Diego could have faced up to 10 years in prison for bringing two gasoline-filled bottles with wicks to a protest outside the La Mesa police headquarters last year, federal prosecutors said.
Karas was arrested about 2 a.m. May 31, 2020, hours after police in the San Diego suburb had declared an unlawful assembly.
Police ordered a crowd to disperse after several fires were set that burned two banks. The violence came after nightfall and followed a mainly peaceful daytime protest over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
La Mesa was the location for the protest because of an incident earlier that week in which an officer repeatedly pushed a black man at a trolley station. The incident was caught on video and posted to social media.
According to prosecutors, Karas told law enforcement authorities that he had intended to use the Molotov cocktails to set fires but changed his mind.
Several other people were arrested and charged with setting fires or stealing goods from stores.
Karas was convicted in May of possessing an unregistered destructive device, which carried a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.