‘LET’S START A RIOT’ — Feds Charge Atlantic City Man in Outlet Mall Mayhem
ATLANTIC CITY — A 30-year-old city resident's angry Facebook posts led to federal riot charges after being arrested during mayhem that erupted after peaceful protests on Sunday, officials said Thursday.
Federal prosecutors say Carlos A. Matchett was among "a group of people engaged in a spree of rioting, destruction, and looting in and around the Tanger Outlets, an area known locally as 'the Walk.'"
Officials said Matchett was standing in the middle of the street about 8:30 p.m. shouting obscenities at police and encouraging others to loot.
Police said they arrested him after he refused to leave. Police said they found a knife, a hatchet and a jar filled with gasoline in his backpack.
Investigators said that hours earlier, Matchett had written "LET'S START A RIOT" on his Facebook page. They said they also found a video on his page that day that "showed him encouraging and assisting others in the vicinity of the Tanger Outlets in Atlantic City to loot goods from smashed store fronts," New Jersey U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said Thursday.
His Facebook page on Thursday included lots of anti-police and violent posts, linking to news articles about confrontations with police across the country.
Matchett is the second person that Carpenito's office has charged this week in connection to violence that has followed anti-racism protests.
On Tuesday, the feds charged a 21-year-old South Plainfield man with attempting to set a police car on fire after a protest Sunday in Trenton. He faces five to 20 years in prison if found guilty of that charge.
Matchett was charged Wednesday with using a facility of interstate and foreign commerce — his cellphone and Facebook — with intent to participate and carry on a riot. Matchett faces up to five years in prison if found guilty of that charge.
New Jersey 101.5 did not know Thursday whether Matchett had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
About 100 protests have been held in New Jersey since this weekend in response to the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd last week as well as other deaths of black people at the hands of police. Another 19 demonstrations are planned in the state.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday said that with "very few exceptions," the demonstrations in New Jersey have been peaceful, unlike the violent and fiery unrest seen in cities elsewhere in the country.
Murphy sided with the protesters while encouraging them to safeguard against the coronavirus.
"I applaud all who are taking to the streets peacefully, especially those wearing a face covering, to create a better future for our entire New Jersey family," he said.
A day earlier, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal unveiled new measures aimed at police accountability and transparency, including a statewide use-of-force reporting database and a licensing program for police officers.