A high-profile Ferguson, Missouri, protester was charged Saturday with setting fire to a convenience store in nearby Berkeley on Wednesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
A police officer with a fire extinguisher stands in the broken out entry to a QuikTrip on Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014, following a shooting nearby Tuesday in Berkeley, Mo. (Image source: AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson)
More from the Post-Dispatch:
St. Louis County police arrested Joshua Williams, 19, of St. Louis, on Friday after several local media outlets and store surveillance captured images of him trying to set a pile of wood on fire outside the QuikTrip on North Hanley Road early Wednesday.
Williams confessed to setting fires at the store in a videotaped interview, according to court documents.
Joshua Williams addresses the Ferguson city council during the council's regular scheduled meeting on September 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. The meeting was held at Greater Grace Church to accommodate the large crowd. Most residents used the meeting to express their anger at how the police and city council handled the shooting of teenager Michael Brown and the unrest that followed. (Image source: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Police say Williams entered the QuikTrip shortly after looters shattered its glass doors during protests of the death of Antonio Martin, 18, who a police officer had shot earlier at the Mobil station across the street. Surveillance footage from the Mobil store shows Martin point what police say is a gun at a Berkeley officer before the officer fatally shoots him.
Williams can be seen in videos both inside and outside the looted QuikTrip, authorities said.
Police told the Post-Dispatch that Williams used lighter fluid to set fires inside and outside the QuikTrip. In addition to his first-degree arson charge, a felony, he was also charged with felony burglary and misdemeanor stealing for allegedly taking a lighter, gum and money from the store, the paper reported.
Williams has been arrested at least twice during Ferguson-related protests for unlawful assembly and refusal to disperse, the Post-Dispatch said; but it added that he's been quoted advocating peaceful protests.
"We have to come together as one and show them we can be peaceful, that we can do this," an MSNBC profile quoted him as saying, the Post-Dispatch said. "If not, they’re going to just want us to act up so they can pull out their toys on us again.”
Williams added: “I learned that we have to stand up and that you can’t get nowhere with violence but you can always move people without it."
Williams has been frequently quoted and photographed as part of Ferguson protests.
Professor and activist Cornel West, center, and Joshua Williams, 18, right, march arm-in-arm with protesters towards the St. Louis University campus where protesters announced they were staging a sit-in, Monday, Oct. 13, 2014, in St. Louis, in reaction to the shooting this summer of a black, 18-year-old by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. (Image source: AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson)
The Post-Dispatch noted that Williams recently got to within a few feet of St. Louis police Chief Sam Dotson during a Ferguson Commission meeting and shouted, "Can someone please get this lying (expletive) hoe off the mic?"
Joshua Williams raises his arms during a meeting of the Ferguson City Council Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. The meeting is the first for the city council since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a city police officer. (Image source: AP/Jeff Roberson)
Protesters said Friday night and early Saturday that they couldn't believe Williams confessed, noting the video images lack clarity, the paper reported.
"Josh is one of the young activists, and all of us have taken close to him. We got to know his heart, and he got to know ours," Bishop Derrick Robinson of Kingdom Destiny Fellowship International told the Post-Dispatch. "He's a great kid, an educated kid, a child who knows what he wants and is very active in the community."
This story has been updated.
(H/T: Drudge Report)