Originally published December 24, 2020
Four suspects, including a journalist, from Little Rock, Ark. with extreme far-left ties were taken into custody and charged by federal authorities last week in connection to coordinated firebombings of police cruisers over the summer.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas announced that Brittany Dawn Jeffrey, 31, Renea Baek Goddard, 22, Aline Espinosa-Villegas, 24, and Emily Nowlin, 27, were arrested following a months-long ATF investigation.
The four suspects have been charged with malicious destruction of property belonging to an entity receiving federal funding, conspiracy to commit those acts and possession of a destructive device.
On Aug. 25, a large crowd of far-left protesters held a violent protest at the Little Rock Police Department’s 12th Street Substation. They punctured the tires of police vehicles and threw Molotov cocktails.
According to the criminal complaint, surveillance footage recorded two people moving in the direction of the parking lot after the protest and throwing a flaming object toward the police cars. Witnesses interviewed by investigators say the incendiary devices were assembled at Jeffrey’s residence.
Later on Aug. 28, an Arkansas State Police vehicle was vandalized and burned while stored in a parking lot at police headquarters in Little Rock. Another vehicle was set on fire and several other cars suffered numerous vandalisms. Investigators located a detonated Molotov cocktail created from a bottle of brandy.
Security video showed three individuals entering the storage area dressed in dark clothing with backpacks on.
The criminal complaint accuses Goddard, Nowlin, and Espinosa-Villegas of orchestrating the targeted attack. Federal search warrants were used to confirm that their mobile phones were in the location of the police station during the time of the attack.
Federal investigators conclude that the trio "conspired together, aided and abetted one another" and used encrypted applications to communicate with each other "in an attempt to thwart law enforcement detection of the group[‘s] criminal activities."
All four suspects have a history of far-left activism.
Brittany Dawn Jeffrey, accused of using her home to allow comrades to assemble incendiary devices, live streamed her arrest last Thursday on Facebook. She at first refused to exit her car until arresting officers explained what the federal warrant was for. The video ended when police confiscated her phone. She has since been released from police custody.
Calling herself "your local blactivist," Jeffrey has led a series of Black Lives Matter-style protests after the death of George Floyd, including rallies that shut down businesses. She has been arrested numerous times.
Jeffrey was arrested on July 12 for criminal trespassing at a BLM protest in Conway, Ark. at a frozen custard parlour where an ex-employee accused of racism once worked. Jeffrey’s trial for that charge is set for Jan. 14.
She was also arrested and charged with disorderly conduct on June 2, when bottle-throwing protesters marched through downtown Little Rock.
In addition, Jeffrey has a criminal history unrelated to protests. In 2019, she was convicted of property theft and threatened with contempt of court for failure to pay the related fines. In 2018, Jeffrey was acquitted of two counts of felony aggravated assault and a separate resisting arrest case was dropped. In 2017, she faced drug paraphernalia and possession charges, but those were ultimately dismissed.
Renea Goddard, accused of being part of the Molotov-throwing trio, is a left-wing journalist. She was previously arrested and charged with obstructing governmental operations while violating curfew at a BLM protest on June 2. Her next court proceeding for the local charge is scheduled for Jan. 22.
Goddard attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and studied mass communication. She interned for the statewide news organization Arkansas Public Media, reported for KUAR Public Radio, and contributed to LGBT online magazine Autostraddle.
"As more and more white supremacists try to rebrand themselves, journalists have a responsibility to be vigilant. There needs to be an end to this farce that neutrality necessitates taking a centrist position," Goddard wrote in a column for social-justice news site Truthout in 2019.
Aline Espinosa-Villegas, a transsexual Chilean national, was also arrested at the June 2 protest attended by Goddard. Espinosa-Villegas reportedly uses "xe" pronouns and goes by the pseudonym "Loba de Valparaíso."
Espinosa-Villegas is currently held at Pulaski County Detention Center without bond on the current federal charges. Far-left activists have alleged without evidence that food is being withheld from "xe."
Emily Nowlin, the third firebombing suspect, was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct at the June 2 protest for allegedly blocking traffic and refusing to disperse from the road. She was arrested among 28 suspects. Some laid on the ground and had to be carried off by officers with their hands zip tied.
Nowlin’s pre-trial hearing for that charge is scheduled for Jan. 22.
The four defendants appeared before US Magistrate Judge Joe Volpe last Thursday. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Stacy Williams.