An Indianapolis, Indiana, man pleaded guilty in federal court Monday after "repeatedly and intentionally jeopardizing the lives of police officers, destroying public property, and encouraging others to commit violence" during the 2020 Black lives Matter riots in Portland, Oregon, according to the Justice Department.
According to court documents, Malik Fard Muhammad, 25 was charged with possession of unregistered destructive devices, engaging in civil disorder and obstructing law enforcement, and using explosives to commit a federal felony.
On Monday, the defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing unregistered destructive devices, the Department of Justice press release reads.
A grand jury in Multnomah County had indicted Muhammad last year on allegations that he attempted to murder two police officers during separate riots in Portland by using explosive devices. The 28-count indictment included first and second-degree attempted murder, attempted aggravated murder, unlawful manufacture of a destructive device, and unlawful use of a weapon.
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced Tuesday that Muhammad pled guilty to 14 felony charges and received a 10-year prison sentence. In addition, the court imposed over $200,000 in restitution.
Federal prosecutor Adam Delph previously argued in court that "Mr. Muhammad is not some peaceful protester who just got carried away. He was an instigator. He put a community, not his own, in serious danger," The Oregonian reported.
Muhammad traveled to Portland with his girlfriend from their home in Indianapolis to participate in area riots, according to court documents.
According to the DOJ, on Sept. 5, 2020, Muhammad was present during a large civil disturbance in east Portland where demonstrators threw dangerous objects at police, including commercial-grade fireworks, Molotov cocktails, and bottles. One demonstrator was seriously burned by a Molotov cocktail thrown toward police and Muhammad provided baseball bats to rioters, court documents said.
Following Muhammad's arrest in October that year, law enforcement officials confiscated his cell phone and found messages in which he bragged about giving the bats to rioters. Additionally, the phone contained a shopping list of supplies used to make Molotov cocktails, the DOJ statement details.
After the massive protest, police found a discarded bat with a Goodwill price tag near the scene, traced the item to the specific Goodwill store where the bat was purchased, and authorities obtained surveillance footage showing Muhammad and his girlfriend buying bats and "growler" bottles.
During another riot near the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Penumbra Kelly Building on Sept. 21, 2020, police observed a person light an object on fire and throw it toward the building. An officer observed the burning object flying toward his vehicle and landing approximately 15 feet from a police sound truck.
Officers recovered the unexploded device, which consisted of a yellow glass growler with a Goodwill sticker on the bottom, a cloth wick, and an ignitable liquid. The growler was one of the items purchased at the Goodwill store by Muhammad and his girlfriend. DNA evidence also linked the growler to Muhammad, the DOJ press release continues.
On Sept. 23, 2020, Antifa set fire to and broke windows at the Multnomah County Justice Center. An individual threw a Molotov cocktail in a large yellow growler that landed in front of the officers, shattered, and exploded into a large fireball. Even though some officers were able to move out of the way, one officer's leg caught fire. Muhammad was captured on video throwing the device.
On Oct. 11, 2020, while approximately 250 people marched in downtown Portland during another protest, some of the participants began vandalizing buildings and parks including the Oregon Historical Society, Portland State University, a Starbucks coffee shop, a Bank of America branch, among others. Police observed Muhammad in the crowd dressed in black and using a metal baton to smash the windows of several buildings. He was arrested after a short chase while in possession of a loaded pistol magazine in his pocket. A loaded pistol matching the magazine was found discarded near the location of his arrest.
Officials determined Muhammad's trip to Portland was not an isolated event. Prosecutors cited Muhammad's social media posts that promoted violence toward police in multiple cities, including riot-torn Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Chicago, and argued that they demonstrated his far-left ideology. Investigators obtained evidence that he traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, as well in August 2020 to meet with "anti-government and anti-authority violent extremist groups" to conduct firearms and tactical training, the DOJ press release describes.
According to Delph, Muhammad wrote a caption on a photo showing the riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that read, "Kill cops. Shoot back. We say no justice no peace we mean NO PEACE." Delph wrote in a federal motion seeking the defendant’s detention that on another post, Muhammad, when referencing a news story about Chicago gangs forming a pact to execute cops who draw weapons, wrote, "shoot, every opportunity you have," according to The Oregonian's reporting.
Per the local outlet, Delph wrote to the court, "This was not a one-time act during a protest. Muhammed came to Portland, while heavily armed, with the intent to engage in violent activities. And he did just that. Defendant’s history and characteristics, as evidenced by his own words on social media and his actions in August and September, reveal a person driven to violence."
According to Senior Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Nathan Vasquez, a police search of Muhammad's travel trailer, where he was living for several months, yielded an AR-15 rifle, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Detectives contacted the rifle's owner, an Indianapolis man. The owner told investigators that Muhammad was "a communist revolutionary who was attempting to gather people with firearms to engage in acts of violence."
According to the DOJ, on May 28, 2021, Muhammad was charged with possession of unregistered destructive devices, engaging in civil disorder and obstructing law enforcement, and using explosives to commit a felony. On June 15, 2021, a federal grand jury in Portland indicted Muhammad on the same charges.
Possessing an unregistered destructive device is punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison per count of conviction. According to the DOJ press release, with Muhammad's continued acceptance of responsibility, the US Attorney's Office will recommend a sentence of 10 years in federal prison. US Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug of the District of Oregon made Monday's announcement.
Muhammad's sentencing court date is scheduled for June 21, 2022 before US District Court Chief Judge Marco Hernandez.
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