TAMPA, Fla. – Terrance Lee Hester, Jr., 20, Tampa, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to damaging or destroying by fire a building used in interstate commerce. Hester faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 5 years, and up to 20 years, in federal prison.
A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to court documents, around midnight on May 31, 2020, a protest near a shopping plaza located at 2301 East Fowler Avenue in Tampa devolved into civil unrest, looting, and destruction of property.
During this disturbance, the Champs Sports store located in the shopping plaza was set on fire. The building became fully engulfed in fire, resulting in major damage to the building and the loss of property.
The estimated loss to the building, the Champs Sports store, and other businesses in the plaza is approximately $1.25 million.
Video footage obtained by investigators revealed that Hester had participated in the civil disturbance and tossed a flaming piece of cloth into the Champs Sports store through a broken window. Fire investigators determined that the fire originated inside the Champs Sports store, and Hester’s act caused or contributed to the cause of the fire.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Tampa Police Department, and Tampa Fire Rescue. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Sinacore.
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