Matthew Lee Rupert was sentenced Tuesday to 105 months behind bars, followed by three years of supervised release for setting fire to a Sprint cellphone store in Minneapolis during the Black Lives Matter riots following George Floyd’s death.
A statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota explained that the 29-year-old from Galesburg, Ill., posted messages on his Facebook account referencing the riots occurring in the Twin Cities, including one that claimed, “I’m going to Minneapolis tomorrow who coming only goons I’m renting hotel rooms.”
A day later, he broadcast a Facebook Live video announcing that he was in Minneapolis and came “to riot.” He is shown handing out artillery-shell fireworks, encouraging violence against police, damaging property, breaking into buildings, and looting businesses.
According to the defendant’s guilty plea and documents filed with the court, the video also depicts Rupert asking for lighter fluid before canvassing, then entering the back of a boarded-up Sprint store located on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis.
Court documents state that Rupert also ordered others, including a juvenile, to pile boxes on the ground before dousing them with lighter fluid and setting them on fire, causing extensive damage.
Rupert livestreamed many of his violent acts on social media, and at one point yelled, “We come to riot, boy! I lit it on fire!” and “I’ve got some bombs if some of you all want to throw them back.”
“Matthew Rupert chose to drive more than 400 miles from his home in Illinois to Minnesota to engage in violence and destruction, all while broadcasting it for the world to see. Peaceful protest was not on his agenda,” Acting U.S. Attorney W. Anders Folk explained. “Arson, looting, property damage, and the glorification of it, will not be tolerated. Today, justice has caught up with Mr. Rupert as he must now account for his crimes.”
The FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) conducted the overall investigation, with assistance from the FBI Chicago Field Office, the FBI Springfield Field Office, and the Chicago Police Department.
“Today, we count yet another violent offender as held to account for his reckless and deliberate damage to our community,” Michael Paul, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis division, said.
“Mr. Rupert made his way to Minneapolis for the express purpose of instigating lawless behavior on our local streets. He demonstrated no purpose other than endangering peaceful protests by actively encouraging violence against law enforcement and personally destroying community businesses. Together with our local partners, FBI Minneapolis and ATF St. Paul continue to hold indifferent criminals like Mr. Rupert accountable for their dangerous and divisive criminal conduct in the Twin Cities.”
ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Jon Ortiz said the sentence will “send a message to anyone who considers conducting these types of violent acts that they will not be tolerated.”
Assorted violent riots across America following Floyd’s death destroyed an estimated $1 billion worth of property.