Assistant U. S. Attorney Shital H. Thakkar (619) 546-8785
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – May 23, 2022
SAN DIEGO – Sylvester Andrews Jr. was sentenced in federal court today to 60 months in prison for possessing and ultimately attempting to use incendiary devices known as Molotov cocktails. Andrews attempted to use the Molotov cocktails by throwing them through the window of a National City residence, which was occupied by three juvenile victims who were home alone at the time.
On May 20, 2018, the National City Police and Fire Departments responded to a vehicle fire outside of the victims’ residence. When personnel arrived, they found a vehicle completely engulfed in flames. Fire Investigators ultimately determined that the vehicle fire was set intentionally. A subsequent investigation showed beach towels were doused with liquid, possibly gasoline, and placed on the vehicle prior to the towels being set aflame. The officers also noticed a window at the victims’ residence was broken, and after the car fire was extinguished, they conducted a welfare check. The officers discovered the threejuvenile victims and the Molotov cocktails which had not detonated.
An investigation led by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives revealed that Andrews had a dispute with a parent of the juvenile victims. In the early morning hours of May 20, 2018, Andrews went to the victims’ residence and threw both Molotov cocktails through a bedroom window, neither of which ignited fully.
The ATF Forensic Science Laboratory identified the liquid in both Molotov cocktails as gasoline. The use of surveillance cameras, text messages, DNA evidence, and other evidence revealed Andrews’ involvement.
“This defendant’s actions put three children at great risk because of a grown-up grudge, and the price for that is prison,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “This is a fitting sentence for an offender who used an explosive device to settle a score.” Grossman thanked the prosecution team, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the National City Police Department, National City Fire, and Carlsbad Police Department for their excellent work on this case.
“ATF has the expertise to determine the origin and cause of fires and explosions under the most challenging and complex circumstances due to its highly trained forensic investigators and its nationwide state-of-art laboratories,” said ATF Los Angeles Field Division Special Agent in Charge Monique Villegas. “ATF brings a unique set of resources to fire and explosives investigations, which includes special agent certified fire investigators, certified explosives specialists, and chemists among others. ATF will continue to collaborate with its local partners perfecting charges against individuals whose criminal actions devastate lives and destroy personal property.”
DEFENDANT Case Number 20-cr-02942-AJB
Sylvester Andrews Jr. Age: 39 Spring Valley, CA
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Malicious Damage to Buildings or Real Property Affecting Interstate, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(i);
Possession of an Unregistered Destructive Device, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 5861(d).
Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison and a $250,000 fine per count
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
National City Police Department
National City Fire Department
Carlsbad Police Department
*This case is the result of the ongoing efforts of the Violent Crime and Human Trafficking (VCHT) Section. Formed in 2019, the VCHT is tasked with leading collaborations between federal and local law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of cases involving violent crimes, firearms and gang cases; sex trafficking and child exploitation; civil rights, and labor trafficking. The VCHT Section oversees the Southern District of California Coordinators for Project Safe Neighborhoods, Human Trafficking, and Project Safe Childhood. The VCHT Section also provides federal prosecutors to the downtown San Diego Violent Crimes Task Force-Gang Group, the North County Gang Task Force, and the East County Gang Task Force.