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'Let’s start a riot': Illinois man sentenced to nearly 9 years in prison for setting Minneapolis store on fire after posting his crimes on Facebook

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Image source: Galesburg Police

An Illinois man has been sentenced to nearly nine years in prison for setting a Minneapolis cellphone store on fire during the riots following the death of George Floyd. The man tipped off law enforcement by posting his crimes on Facebook.

Matthew Lee Rupert, 29, was arrested in Chicago at 2:21 a.m. on May 31, 2020, according to WBBM-TV. He was arrested for violating Chicago's emergency curfew order that was implemented by Mayor Lori Lightfoot after the protests escalated into violent riots.

Law enforcement scoured Rupert's social media and found incriminating evidence that he had posted himself.

Before he was arrested in the early morning hours of May 31, 2020, Rupert posted multiple videos on Facebook of him in Chicago, where he can be heard saying, "Let's start a riot" and "I'm going to start doing some damage."

On May 30, 2020, Rupert posted on Facebook indicating that he was traveling to Chicago to "loot 'til 2:30," according to the federal criminal complaint.

On May 29, 2020, Rupert, who is from Galesburg, Illinois, broadcast a two-hour Facebook Live video of him committing crimes in Minneapolis.

"Rupert announced that he came 'to riot,' and is depicted handing out artillery-shell fireworks, encouraging violence against law enforcement officers, actively damaging property, breaking into buildings, and looting businesses," according to the Department of Justice.

Rupert was purportedly caught on video saying, "They got SWAT trucks up there . . . I've got some bombs if some of you all want to throw them back . . . bomb them back . . . here I got some more . . . light it and throw it."

The video reportedly shows Rupert asking for lighter fluid before entering a boarded-up Sprint wireless store in Minneapolis. Rupert entered a backroom of the store, knocked boxes into a pile on the ground, and splashed them with lighter fluid, according to the plea deal. Rupert then instructed a juvenile, which he brought with him from Galesburg, to light the pile on fire, according to the document. Rupert reportedly fled the building and yelled, "I lit it on fire!"

Rupert then allegedly went to loot a nearby Office Depot, where he is seen on video taking items from the store.

On June 1, 2020, Rupert was charged with civil disorder, carrying on a riot, and possession of unregistered destructive devices. In April, he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of arson. On Tuesday, he was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported, "The resulting fire totaled the store, according to the feds. Liberty Mutual, which insured the property, had paid nearly $4 million to repair the building and replace lost rental income as of July, and Sprint lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory, they said."

Acting Minnesota U.S. Attorney W. Anders Folk said, "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. 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."

Michael Paul, special agent in charge of the FBI's Minneapolis field office, 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."

Acting Special Agent in Charge Jon Ortiz, St. Paul Field Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, said, "This sentencing will send a message to anyone who considers conducting these types of violent acts that they will not be tolerated."

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