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Galesburg man pleads guilty to arson charge after setting fire in Minnesota store during George Floyd protests

MINNESOTA (HOI) — A Galesburg man has pleaded guilty to one charge of arson after he was videotaped setting a fire in a Minneapolis store during the protests following George Floyd’s death.

Matthew Lee Rupert made the plea in federal court in Minnesota on Wednesday, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office there.

Rupert was arrested in May in Chicago following an investigation into the incident.

According to the defendant’s guilty plea and documents filed with the court, on May 28, 2020, the 28-year-old posted messages on his Facebook account referencing the public protests occurring in the Twin Cities following the death of George Floyd, including one that stated, “I’m going to Minneapolis tomorrow who coming only goons I’m renting hotel rooms.”

In his Facebook Live video, he announced that he came “to riot.”

The video depicts Rupert asking for lighter fluid before entering a boarded-up Sprint store located on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis.

Rupert and others then knocked several boxes into a pile on the ground. He sprayed the pile of boxes with lighter fluid and another individual — at the time a juvenile and acting at Rupert’s direction — lit the pile on fire. He fled the building and said, “I lit it on fire.” The store sustained damage as a result of the fire.

A sentencing date for Rupert will be set at a later time, according to the press release.

Drew Veskauf

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