Man sentenced to prison for restaurant fire during 2020 protests

A San Fernando Valley man who admitted to setting fire to a Santa Monica restaurant during a time of social unrest in 2020 has been sentenced to federal prison, authorities have confirmed.

Micah Tillmon, a 20-year-old West Hills resident, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced Wednesday.

He pleaded guilty in September to one count of possession of an unregistered destructive device, prosecutors said. A restitution hearing will be scheduled for a later date.

According to his plea deal, Tillmon walked inside Sake House by Hikari, a popular Japanese restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard, on May 31, 2020, during protests over the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

The restaurant in downtown Santa Monica and other businesses in the area had closed for the day in anticipation of burglars and vandals using the protests and police response as cover to wreak havoc.

In chaotic scenes broadcast live on TV and social media, police fired on protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas as people stormed into businesses.

“While inside the restaurant, Tillmon possessed and used an incendiary device to ignite a fire that quickly grew, enveloped the entire restaurant space and spread to other areas of the restaurant. building adjacent to the restaurant,” prosecutors said.

Restaurant security video showed Tillmon taking “a red tube-shaped object from his jacket” and placing it behind a reception desk before walking away, according to law enforcement records filed in the case. The fire broke out within seconds.

Santa Monica firefighters responded and extinguished the blaze, but had to leave the scene prematurely due to safety concerns caused by civil unrest, prosecutors said.

“As a result, [firefighters] had to return to the scene multiple times throughout the night to extinguish additional outbreaks,” prosecutors said. “The restaurant has since closed permanently.”

Tillmon was identified by Santa Monica police detectives after reviewing security videos and social media posts, prosecutors said. Investigators also reviewed video showing Tillmon’s white Ford Explorer parking lot next to the restaurant four minutes before the fire started, then reversing the street shortly after the flames broke out.

“[Tillmon’s] the actions of May 31, 2020 were only possible due to a complete breakdown of social order,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Riots like the ones that rocked this neighborhood in the summer of 2020 are a stark reminder of the thin line between state control and lawlessness.”

Los Angeles Times

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