CLEVELAND (AP) — The FBI arrested two Pennsylvania men early Friday after police said they brought a handgun, ammunition and fire-starting material to Cleveland during a recent protest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Federal officials identified the men at a news conference Friday as Brandon Althof Long and Devon Poland. They are both in their 20s and are from the Erie, Pennsylvania, area, Justin Herdman, U.S. Attorney for Northern Ohio, said.
The men were confronted by Cleveland police around midnight Saturday after a curfew for the downtown area had been imposed as numerous businesses were damaged, merchandise stolen, and police cruisers set on fire. A search by police of Althof Long’s car found the handgun, ammunition, commercial fire starter and a bottle of liquor with a pour top suspected of being stolen from a downtown business.
It’s unclear whether Cleveland police arrested the men at that point.
Althof Long and Poland were arrested by FBI agents on criminal complaints and have not been charged. Federal court records don’t indicate whether they have attorneys.
“They purposefully inserted themselves into a constitutionally protected protest with the design to exploit it for their own purposes,” Herdman said, calling them “out-of-state agitators.”
It is not clear whether the men were associated with any organized groups, Herdman said.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams used the news conference to dispute the notion that out-of-state residents were not involved in Saturday’s mayhem, which began with a peaceful protest over the death of Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes.
Court records indicated that none of the 99 people arrested Saturday were from outside Ohio and that most were from the area, media outlets reported. Cleveland officials questioned whether the records were correct, suggesting people may have used fake addresses.
“I hope that question is put to bed once and forever,” Williams said.
Williams also announced that five men were arrested early Friday trying to break into Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians. He said the men, who were from outside Cuyahoga County, carried fire starter and fire extinguishers.
Cleveland is conducting an internal investigation of citizen complaints about police using excessive force against protesters, Williams said, adding that no officers have been suspended.
In Columbus, Mayor Andrew Ginther announced at a news conference on Friday the creation of an independent civilian police review board amid heightened tensions over police brutality in that city.
The board is expected to be in place by year’s end. It is the first time Columbus will have meaningful civilian oversight of police, Ginther said.
“Now there is no greater priority than combating racism within every coroner of our community, including with our division of police,” Ginther said.
The mayor also called for the state to establish a third-party independent review of all use-of-force complaints against law enforcement officers.
Ginther’s announcement comes after protests, some violent, in downtown Columbus and across the nation the last week.
When questioned about officer use of force during protests, Quinlan said the city attorney approved tactics employed by officers that are in line with how Columbus police officers handle civil unrest and mass gatherings.
“While there were certainly compliant protesters using their voices with good criticism that we needed to hear, we have also had violent outbursts where protesters threw frozen water bottles and pieces of concrete at officers,” Quinlan said.
The chief said 166 officers were injured and several were hospitalized during the weeklong protests in Columbus.
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