A Fayetteville man – Charles Anthony Pittman – was arrested and charged by Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents, in connection with setting fire to the Market House during last Saturday night’s protests in Downtown Fayetteville.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina Robert J. Higdon announced the charges late Friday afternoon.
The charges said that Pittman had driven around the Market House earlier in the day while on Facebook Live, and said he would be back because he thought the building should come down. He was later seen in news media photos on the balcony of the Market House holding a gas can, and wearing the same shirt he had on in the Facebook Live.
Officials said Pittman escaped out of the Market House after setting fire to the floor, with several others who were in the building, including an employee.
If found guilty, Pittman faces a potential mandatory minimum sentence of seven years, with a maximum potential sentence of 40 years on the Federal charges.
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office:
A Fayetteville man was arrested today for taking part in the arson of Fayetteville’s Market House after an otherwise peaceful demonstration over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, turned violent, Robert J. Higdon, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina announced.
Charles Anthony Pittman, of Fayetteville was arrested by special agents of the ATF and is charged by complaint with one count of maliciously damaging property owned or possessed by an institution receiving federal financial assistance. Pittman will make his initial appearance June 9, 2020, by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert T. Numbers, II.
According to the complaint, on May 30, 2020, an otherwise peaceful protest in downtown Fayetteville turned violent when several individuals set fire to the Market House. A local television crew caught Pittman on camera showing a red gasoline container to the crowd below before he poured its contents throughout the floor of the second story. Pittman ran out of the Market House as the floor caught on fire with other individuals, including an employee, still inside. As a result of the fire, the Market House sustained charring and mass wood loss to the second story floor.
Earlier that same day, Pittman broadcasted a Facebook Live video while he drove around the Market House traffic circle. Pittman claimed to be scoping out the scene, as he discussed whether the Market House should come down. After noting the inaction of the peaceful protesters, saying they would just “barbeque and mildew,” Pittman promised the Facebook Live audience that he would be back. Pittman wore the same shirt in the Facebook Live video that he wore later at the Market House fire.
The count charged in the criminal complaint carries a statutory mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of seven (7) years, a maximum potential penalty of forty (40) years in prison, and a maximum fine of $250,000.
Robert J. Higdon, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina credited the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, and the Fayetteville Police Department (FPD) with the investigation leading to today’s arrest. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chad Rhoades and J.D. Koesters of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division are representing the government.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.