No jail time for axe-wielding black man who set Asian UC Berkeley students on fire with blowtorch

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price, who ran on "racial equity", agreed to the plea deal.

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA
A California man found guilty of lighting UC Berkeley students on fire inside a boba tea shop in 2020 with a blowtorch has been released from custody and will avoid jail time, The Berkeley Scanner reports.

Brandon McGlone, 49, was referred to the Veterans Treatment Court and will be participating in a "diversion treatment" program as part of his plea deal, according to Alameda County Superior Court records.

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price, who ran on "racial equity", agreed to the plea deal after reaching an agreement with the public defender's office, the outlet reports.

At a court hearing on April 28, Judge James Cramer said that all charges "will be dismissed" if McGlone succesfully completes the diversion program. According to The Berkeley Scanner, if McGlone does not complete the program he will be sent to prison for up to eight years.

"He must successfully engage in and complete whatever course of therapy is prescribed by the treatment team and abide by whatever conditions are set forth," Judge Cramer said. "If he fails to do so, he could be terminated from the Veterans Treatment Court program and sentence will be imposed."

On September 14, 2020, McGlone entered the Feng Cha Teahouse at 2528 Durant Ave and set two Asian men on fire after attempting to set fire to two others outside of the store, according to court documents.

McGlone approached the two students as they were standing in line waiting for their food when he pulled out a can of WD-40 and used a lighter to ignite the gas, creating a massive fireball, witnesses said.

The students were able to put out the flames as McGlone proceeded to fight bystanders, which sprawled out into the parking lot, court records show.

During the fight, McGlone pulled out weapons which included a knife and an axe. Police arrived and took him into custody "without issue", according to police reports.

According to police, McGlone "was in possession of matches, two lighters, clothing that smelled of gasoline, a can of WD-40, and four glass bottles filled with gasoline subsequently identified as Molotov cocktails.”

McGlone, 46-years-old at the time of his arrest, was charged with arson, criminal threats, throwing a flammable substance on another, assault with a deadly weapon and possession of destructive devices, among other charges, according to The Berkeley Standard.

According to court records, McGlone is an air force veteran who suffers from PTSD and substance abuse. He also has a history of domestic violence against his wife and was charged with two felonies on Sept. 1, 2020, after McGlone was found guilty of repeatedly striking his wife with a pistol and punching her in the face.

In September 2020, McGlone was charged with felony domestic violence causing great bodily injury, assault with a firearm and a number of other felony charges related to the case, the outlet reports.

"McGlone’s service resulted in PTSD and substance abuse, for which he has sought and participated in treatment," Emily Klein, McGlone's defense attorney, argued in a recent motion.

During the April hearing, Judge Cramer issued a ten-year protective order between McGlone and his wife and daughter, according to the outlet. He also granted nine other victims in the WD-40 attacks protection orders, as well.

As a result of the plea deal, McGlone entered no-contest pleas to charges of assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a destructive device and three counts of assault with caustic chemicals, as well as assault with a firearm and carrying a loaded firearm in connection with the DV case.

Judge Cramer explained that sentencing would be postponed for two years if McGlone successfully completes the treatment program, while the protection orders will remain in place.


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