Five Hall County men were charged by a federal grand jury in an arson case stemming from a Gainesville Police car being torched with a flare gun at the officer’s residence, according to authorities.
Those charged were Deveccho Waller Jr., 21, Jesse Smallwood, 21, Dashun Martin, 23, and Judah Bailey, 20, all of Gainesville, and Bruce Thompson, 22, of Oakwood.
A Gainesville Police Department patrol car was set on fire June 2 in the parking lot of an apartment complex.
“While using the cover of peaceful protests in Gainesville, the defendants allegedly sought out and intentionally burned a police vehicle,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak in a statement. “Those seeking to perpetrate criminal acts of violence toward our law enforcement officers should expect to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a witness saw an older model vehicle with no lights parked near the apartment entrance. The witness saw two people from the car approach the patrol car before a “loud bang followed by a bright light” and smoke coming from the patrol car, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“We want our community to know we stand with them during their rights to peacefully protest. Sadly, agitators that do not necessarily share the same goals as our community took this opportunity to target one of our officers at his residence. We will not stand for this type of destruction and violence in our community,” said Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish in a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A lookout went out over the radio for the suspect vehicle, and officers spotted one matching the description at a nearby gas station and convenience store.
“The driver, Jesse James Smallwood, agreed to speak to one of the officers and gave permission for his car to be searched. During the search, officers recovered three spent explosives and a flare gun. Smallwood and his passengers, Waller Jr., Thompson, Bailey, and Martin, were all arrested for the arson,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The indictment includes one count of general conspiracy and one count of arson, where it is alleged the police patrol unit is “used in interstate and foreign commerce, and in activities affecting interstate and foreign commerce.”
No attorneys were listed for Waller or Smallwood with either Hall County Magistrate Court or the federal court record database.
Attorneys for Martin, Thompson and Bailey did not immediately respond to requests for comment.