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2 sentenced for shooting flare gun into police cruiser in summer 2020
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People take to downtown Gainesville Sunday, May 31, 2020, on the second night of protests in Gainesville that blocked traffic and resulted in vandalism on the square. - photo by Scott Rogers

The last two men of five charged with firing a flare gun in the summer of 2020 into a Gainesville Police officer’s patrol vehicle were sentenced this week in federal court, according to authorities.

Jesse James Smallwood and Dashun Martin, both of Gainesville, were sentenced Nov. 16 and Nov. 15, respectively, after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit arson.

Smallwood was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison, while Martin was sentenced to one year and five months. 

Delveccho Waller Jr. and Judah Coleman Bailey, both of Gainesville, were previously sentenced to one year and nine months in prison, and Bruce Thompson was sentenced in August to 14 months and 21 days in prison.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the five men met June 1, 2020, in a CVS parking lot to participate in Gainesville protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.

The prosecutors said Bailey brought a flare gun and cartridges, and the five men discussed shooting it into a police car parked at an apartment complex.

Smallwood drove the men to the apartment complex, where the men pulled masks and bandanas over their faces, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Bailey approached the police vehicle and shot a flare inside the vehicle through the rear windshield, setting the vehicle on fire,” according to the prosecution. “The five defendants then fled the scene in Smallwood’s car.”

The five men were arrested after a tip from someone who saw the men drive away from the apartment complex, according to authorities.

“We want our community to know we stand with them during their rights to peacefully protest,” Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish said in a statement. “However, these defendants did not peacefully protest, rather, they took this opportunity to target one of our officers at his residence. This type of violence and destruction will not be tolerated in our community.”

Online court documents noted that Martin’s custodial sentence was deemed served, but the paperwork was not available Wednesday, Nov. 17, for Smallwood.

The Times reached out to Fenn Little and Judy Fleming, the respective attorneys for Martin and Smallwood, but did not get a response.

Smallwood’s mother and sister wrote letters to the judge in the case.

“He was not a rebellious teenager,” Smallwood’s mother wrote. “He was and is a very respectful and polite young man.”

Smallwood’s sister said it was “out of his character to be a follower,” adding that Smallwood’s two biggest priorities in life were his family and work.

“He has never been in any trouble, and I know he sincerely regrets any participation that he has had in this case,” Smallwood’s sister wrote.

All five men will be on supervised release for three years after their prison sentences and must pay $3,678.17 in restitution to the police department.

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