LITTLE ROCK— A federal investigation resulted in charges against four people for their alleged involvement in fire bombings of police vehicles in Little Rock and North Little Rock in August 2020. Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives New Orleans Field Division Special Agent in Charge Kurt Thielhorn announced the arrests of Brittany Dawn Jeffrey, 31; Emily Nowlin, 27; Renea Goddard, 22; and Aline Espinosa-Villegas, 24; all of Little Rock.
According to the Criminal Complaint filed on Dec. 14, 2020, numerous incidents of vandalism occurred after protests were held at local police stations earlier this year. On Aug. 25, 2020, a large group of protestors held a demonstration at the Little Rock Police Department 12th Street Substation. The following morning, officers arriving for duty noticed that several police vehicles in their parking lot had punctured tires. Officers also saw two green glass bottles with fluid inside that smelled like gasoline. The bottles were examined and found to be consistent with improvised incendiary devices, commonly referred to as Molotov cocktails.
The Complaint explains that a Molotov cocktail is typically made by using a container filled with an ignitable liquid and placing a wick in the opening of the container. If the Molotov cocktail functions as designed, the container will break, spreading ignitable liquid, which will be lit by the flaming wick.
According to the Complaint, surveillance footage reflected that two individuals were moving near the parking lot after the protests, and a flaming object can be observed being launched into the parking lot area. Cooperating witnesses stated that the Molotov cocktails were assembled at Brittany Dawn Jeffrey’s residence.
The Complaint states that on Aug. 28, 2020, an Arkansas State Police vehicle was vandalized and burned while stored in a fenced parking lot at Arkansas State Police Headquarters in Little Rock. One vehicle had been set on fire, one had been vandalized with spray paint, and several others had punctured tires. Investigators discovered a detonated Molotov cocktail made from a bottle of brandy.
Surveillance video from that incident shows three people entering the vehicle storage area wearing dark clothing and backpacks. The video shows them bending down in a motion consistent with slashing vehicle tires as well as throwing a lighted object into a police vehicle. The Complaint states that witnesses informed law enforcement that Renea Goddard, Emily Nowlin, and Aline Espinosa-Villegas were responsible for the incident. Federal search warrants were executed to obtain the locations of their cell phones, and cell site data confirmed that their cell phones were in the location of Arkansas State Police Headquarters on Aug. 28, 2020.
“Today’s arrests send a message that violence targeted toward law enforcement will not be tolerated,” stated U.S. Attorney Hiland. “Breaking into a police compound and fire bombing a police vehicle with a homemade explosive device is clearly not a peaceful protest. Those who would target law enforcement with violent acts will not do so in the Eastern District of Arkansas without the full resources of the federal government being deployed to assist our state and local partners in bringing those responsible to justice. They will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“We worked methodically on each of the scenes, collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses, and following leads to help us solve these cases,” said ATF New Orleans Field Division Special Agent in Charge Kurt Thielhorn. “We were able to narrow in on particular individuals who we identified responsible for the law enforcement vehicle fires in the Little Rock area. We appreciate the assistance the public was able to provide in order to bring these individuals to justice.”
The charges in the unsealed Complaint include malicious destruction of property belonging to an entity receiving federal funding, conspiracy to commit those acts, and possession of a destructive device. A complaint contains only allegations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.