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Feds, Chicago police seeking 18 people of interest relating to arsons during civil unrest

At least 53 fires destroyed businesses, cars and police department vehicles in neighborhoods from the West Side to the Loop and all the way to the Far South Side.

Kristen deTineo, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch, Jr., right, at a news conference outside the Dirksen Federal Building on Tuesday.
Kristen deTineo, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch, Jr., right, stand beside a collage of persons of interest sought in connection with multiple arson incidents during a news conference outside the Dirksen Federal Building on Tuesday.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Chicago police and federal authorities are looking for at least 18 people in connection with dozens of arson cases spanning the city in the days of civil unrest that followed the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.

Chicago’s top federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney John Lausch, said those people of interest have information about 53 separate cases of arson reported between May 30 and June 3, each committed by people “acting on the peripheral of peaceful protests.”

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The fires destroyed businesses, cars and police department vehicles in neighborhoods from the West Side to the Loop and all the way to the Far South Side, Lausch said Tuesday alongside Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, as authorities released dozens of images and surveillance videos from the chaotic scenes.

One video shows a man apparently starting a fire inside a ransacked convenience store in Austin and then walking out. In another, someone ignites debris near a stairwell inside a storefront in Englewood.

State officials last week estimated that looters and vandals caused $20 million worth of damage across Cook County. Authorities haven’t put a price tag on the destruction in the city, but Brown said police want to “seek justice for the business owners and members of our communities who were affected by these arson cases.”

“Business owners across Chicago saw their hopes and dreams go up in flames,” the superintendent said.

Kristen deTineo, special agent in charge of the Chicago division of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, speaks during a press conference outside the Dirksen Federal Building Tuesday.
Kristen deTineo, special agent in charge of the Chicago division of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, speaks during a press conference outside the Dirksen Federal Building Tuesday.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Members of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ National Response Team were activated in Chicago last month to help investigate many of the fires. The specialized federal team has handled high-profile cases such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombing and the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.

“Detectives, investigators, ATF agents, certified fire investigators, intelligence research specialists and canine teams, along with the U.S. Attorney’s office, are working tirelessly to investigate every lead that we receive,” said Kristen deTineo, special agent in charge of the bureau’s Chicago field division. “We are not finished.”

A provided picture of a vehicle that was set ablaze during the civil unrest in Chicago.
A provided picture of a vehicle that was set ablaze during the civil unrest in Chicago.
Provided

A Pilsen man already has been hit with federal arson charges for allegedly setting fire to a Chicago police vehicle while wearing a Joker mask at the onset of the unrest May 30.

Additionally, at least six people have been charged with federal gun crimes related to Chicago’s unrest, and a Galesburg man also was hit with federal charges for allegedly making the trip to Chicago to loot and riot.

Authorities are asking the public to review the photos and videos. Tips can be submitted anonymously at atftips@atf.gov, (312) 745-6233 or cpdtip.com.