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Man sentenced for bringing molotov cocktails to protest at La Mesa Police HQ

La Mesa protests May 30
Posted at 5:53 PM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 20:53:28-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A San Diego man convicted of bringing Molotov cocktails to last year's police brutality protest at La Mesa police headquarters was sentenced Friday to nearly three years in prison.

Zachary Alexander Karas, 29, was found guilty of possession of an unregistered destructive device following a two-day jury trial in San Diego federal court in May.

Court records indicate Karas, who was sentenced Friday to 33 months in custody, has filed an appeal of his conviction.

Prosecutors alleged Karas brought two glass bottles containing gasoline and wicks to the protest, which began May 30 and carried over into the morning of May 31.

According to the prosecution's trial brief, officers spotted Karas and his girlfriend near Allison Avenue and Spring Street around 2 a.m. May 31. Karas was arrested for not leaving the area after dispersal orders were given by law enforcement, following the declaration of an unlawful assembly.

Karas initially left the protest in the afternoon but returned around 1 a.m. as he "said he was angry and wanted to destroy something but claimed he did not plan to injure any people," according to the trial brief.

In an interview with law enforcement, "Karas indicated that he had made the Molotov cocktails and brought them to the area of the police station because he intended to set fires," a prosecutor wrote. "Karas claimed he eventually changed his mind and was not responsible for any of the fires that were set that night."

According to a defense sentencing memorandum, Karas "was shocked and driven to protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer" in Minneapolis, and the decision to make the Molotov cocktails occurred while he was under the influence of alcohol.

His attorney, who sought house arrest for Karas, noted that "when he was in a position to use (the Molotov cocktails), he did not and took steps to avoid them being used."

Fires were ignited at the Chase and Union Bank branches and Randall Lamb Associates building near the site of the protest. State prosecutors have charged several people with arson and other crimes in connection with those fires, as well as looting that occurred at businesses near the police station.