3 Indicted on Federal Arson and Explosives Charges for Molotov Cocktail Attack

By - June 19, 2020
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An upstate New York woman and two successful Brooklyn, New York, attorneys were indicted last week on federal explosives and arson charges for allegedly throwing Molotov cocktails at NYPD cars during George Floyd protests. (NYpost.com)

Samantha Shader, 27, has been accused of throwing Molotov cocktails at a New York City Police vehicle that was occupied by four police officers on May 30. Federal prosecutors allege she bit the leg of one officer while she was being arrested.

At about the same time, two Brooklyn attorneys at well-known law firms, Urooj Rahman, 31, and Colinford Mattis, 32, were also accused of throwing homemade explosives at a police vehicle in Brooklyn.

All Three Face Life in Prison

The trio all face life in prison on the seven-count indictments. They are charged with the use of explosives, arson, use of explosives to commit a felony, arson conspiracy, use of a destructive device, civil disorder, and making or possessing a destructive device.

US Attorney Richard Donoghue told the media that these serious criminal acts can never be confused with legitimate, First Amendment protest. Those who engage in attacks against police officers and vehicles are criminals, not protesters, and they will be charged as such, he said.

No police officers were injured by the explosives. Shader’s bottle lit but did not ignite. The explosives that Mattis and Rahman threw did ignite and set the empty police car on fire.

Shader’s Alleged Illegal Act Caught on Video

Federal prosecutors stated that Shader’s actions were caught on video, and he has a long rap sheet that includes almost a dozen arrests. The video allegedly shows that she lit the Molotov cocktail before screening the crowd in the early hours of May 30. She was wearing a black T-shirt with a backpack and walked back into the crowd out of the frame of the camera before she came back with the lit cocktail. She allegedly threw the device at the police vehicle that shattered two of its windows as four cops sat inside. But the gas did not ignite because she used toilet paper instead of a rag. (NYPost.com)

In January 2019, she was arrested for interfering with a police officer in Connecticut, a few years after she was convicted for possessing a controlled substance in Oklahoma.

The convictions have not stopped her from escalating her misdeeds to the point where her actions could have seriously hurt or killed the police officers and several bystanders, the US Attorney noted.

The NYPD first was pressing for attempted-murder charges against her, but federal authorities assumed control of the case and charged her with damaging a vehicle, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years.

2 Attorneys Rose from Poor Backgrounds, Worked At Prestigious Law Firms

Rahman and Mattis have been described as quiet, humble Brooklynites who worked at prestigious law firms and had promising careers, which are likely now in ruins. Both of them were known as role models in their communities. They are each the children of immigrants and rose from poor Brooklyn neighborhoods to win awards and campus leadership positions.

Mattis graduated from Princeton University and New York University Law School, while Rahman attended Fordham University for college and law school.

A week after their arrests, it is difficult to understand their motivations. If the charges are true, were they spurred by a momentary spurt of anger, or did they act because of disillusionment with the American system of justice in the wake of George Floyd’s death?

Federal investigators have been going over Rahman’s and Mattis’ social media accounts to understand if they had been involved with violent groups. But they did not find any such ties, and federal prosecutors did not offer a motive in the initial court hearings.

However, in a video interview with a local police station only an hour before the attack, Rahman said it was understandable for people to take to the streets and be upset about police brutality.

She said that ‘this has got to stop, and the only way they hear is through violence, which is the means they use.’ Rahman also said the destruction of police property was appropriate behavior.

At her initial hearing last week, Rahman’s attorney said that her client was guilty and said that both had engaged in foolish, dangerous acts. The attorney said while the acts were ‘stupid and lawless,’ they were swept up in the moment of the protests. Neither had any history of violence of criminal background.

Mattis’ attorney said that the government is arguing that his behavior is indicative of who he is, but this is not true. One of his friends, who talked to Mattis the day before the protest, said he had never talked about engaging in violence against the police. Ikenna Iheoma said both men had gone to private high school, and they did not learn to engage in violence.

Mattis was on furlough from Pryor Cashman before he was arrested. He has since been suspended from the law firm. He was a member of Community Board 5 in Brooklyn, but was removed because of poor attendance.