PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal, 33, of Philadelphia, PA has been charged by criminal complaint for the arson of two Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) vehicles.
The defendant is currently in federal custody and had her initial appearance in federal court yesterday. The government will be filing a motion for the defendant to be detained pending trial.
Following peaceful protests in the early afternoon of May 30, 2020 in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, civil unrest began to unfold later that afternoon in Philadelphia that resulted in widespread looting, burglary, arson, destruction of property, and other violent acts.
On that day, two vehicles, one PPD sedan (number 2514) and one PPD sport utility vehicle (number 1612), were parked on the north side of City Hall in Philadelphia. During the violent episodes that began around City Hall that afternoon, Blumenthal allegedly set fire to both vehicles. According to the complaint, various videos taken at the scene captured the defendant wearing protective goggles and gloves, taking a flaming piece of wooden police barricade from the rear window of the PPD sedan that was already on fire, and then shoving the flaming wood into the PPD SUV that was not on fire. Within minutes, the PPD SUV was also completely engulfed in flames. As result of the fires, both PPD vehicles were destroyed.
“We at the U.S. Attorney’s Office fully support the First Amendment right of the people to assemble peaceably and to petition their government. But torching a police car has nothing to do with peaceful protest or any legitimate message. It is a violent and despicable act that will be prosecuted in this District to the fullest extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Anybody who engaged in such acts can stand by to put your hands behind your back and head to federal prison. We are coming for you.”
“During the past several weeks, multitudes of people peacefully and lawfully exercised their First Amendment right to protest,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. “However, there were individuals who chose to use the protests as an opportunity to engage in criminal activity. Some of these individuals’ actions were malicious, destructive, and could have resulted in critical injuries to others. We are privileged to have worked, and will continue to work, with our partners in law enforcement to investigate, identify and hold accountable the persons who committed these unlawful acts.”
“Our communities deserve to be safe from these types of violent crimes,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge John Schmidt. “Everybody deserves to be safe from violent criminals utilizing dangerous methods to destroy our neighborhoods and property. ATF will always work with our local, state and federal partners to investigate and arrest the criminals who choose to use arson to commit their crimes and terrorize the public.”
“Masses of people took to the streets of Philadelphia on May 30, exercising their right to peacefully protest,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “They were there to send a message in which they truly believed. Sprinkled among the crowd, though, were agitators, whose sole purpose was to commit crimes and cause chaos. As alleged, Blumenthal came prepared for just that, carrying out these arsons that destroyed property and put many lives at risk. Sadly, such acts also hijacked the message of the day’s demonstrators, whose calls for change were obscured for a time by the smoke from all those fires. Working with our law enforcement partners, the FBI is committed to bringing to justice those responsible for violent acts during the otherwise peaceful protests in Philadelphia.”
“Homeland Security Investigations fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference, including through peaceful assembly and protest,” said Brian A. Michael, Special Agent in Charge for HSI Philadelphia. “Unfortunately, a number of protestors enticed violence that resulted in destruction of property throughout the City of Philadelphia. In instances like these, HSI works closely with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to ensure those who inflict damage that impacts the safety and security of our community are held accountable.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of eighty years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $500,000.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia Fire Marshal’s Office, with assistance from the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, and is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.