PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An Indiana man pleaded guilty in federal court to possessing unregistered destructive devices, including Molotov cocktails, during the Portland protests in 2020.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland, 25-year-old Malik Fard Muhammed pleaded guilty on March 28 after repeatedly and intentionally jeopardizing the lives of police officers, destroying public property and encouraging others to commit violence during protests in Portland.
According to court documents, in late summer 2020, Muhammed traveled to Portland with his girlfriend from their home in Indianapolis to violently engage in protests during a summer of widespread civil unrest following the police slaying of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
On September 5, 2020, during a large protest in east Portland on the 100th night of demonstrations, protesters threw dangerous objects at police, including commercial-grade fireworks, Molotov cocktails, and bottles, said prosecutors.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said at least one demonstrator was seriously burned by a Molotov cocktail thrown in the direction of police. Prosecutors added that Muhammed was present at this event and provided baseball bats to members of the crowd.
Following Muhammed’s arrest in October 2020, law enforcement seized his cell phone and found messages where he bragged about providing the baseball bats to other rioters. Officials say the cell phone also contained a shopping list including common supplies used to make a Molotov cocktail.
The day after the demonstration, police located a discarded baseball bat with a Goodwill price tag in the area where the event occurred.
Police then found the Goodwill store where the bat was purchased and obtained surveillance footage showing Muhammed and his girlfriend buying the bats and several “growler” bottles, noted prosecutors.
On September 21, 2020, during a large demonstration near the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Penumbra Kelly Building, law enforcement observed an individual light on fire and throw an object toward the building. One officer, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office, observed the burning object flying toward his vehicle, landing approximately 15 feet from a police sound truck.
Officers recovered the unexploded device, according to prosecutors.
It consisted of a yellow glass growler with a Goodwill sticker on the bottom, a cloth wick, and an ignitable liquid. According to authorities, it was later determined that the growler was one of the items purchased at Goodwill by Muhammed and his girlfriend.
A DNA analysis also linked the growler to Muhammed.
On September 23, 2020, protesters set fire to and broke windows at the Multnomah County Justice Center. When officers advanced toward the crowd, an individual threw a Molotov cocktail in a large yellow growler that landed in front of the officers, shattered, and exploded into a large fireball.
While some officers were able to move out of the way, one officer’s leg caught fire, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors highlighted that several videos obtained by law enforcement show Muhammed throwing the explosive device.
In early October, police say they were monitoring a protest involving approximately 250 people in downtown Portland. Members of the group began heavily vandalizing various buildings and parks including the Oregon Historical Society, Portland State University, a Starbucks coffee shop, and a Bank of America branch, among others.
Law enforcement observed Muhammed in the crowd dressed in black. Portland Police officers reported seeing Muhammed using a metal baton to smash the windows of several buildings and arrested him after a short chase.
Muhammed possessed a loaded handgun magazine in his pocket, according to prosecutors. A loaded handgun matching the magazine found on Muhammed’s person was found discarded near the location of his arrest.
In an announcement by the U.S. District Attorney’s Office, prosecutors say Muhammed’s trip to Portland does not appear to be an isolated event. Investigators obtained evidence that he traveled to Louisville, Ky. in August 2020 to meet with anti-government and anti-authority violent extremist groups to conduct firearms and tactical training.
Investigators also obtained several public social media posts by Muhammed promoting violence toward law enforcement in other cities including Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Chicago.
On May 28, 2021, Muhammed was charged by criminal complaint with possession of unregistered destructive devices, engaging in civil disorder and obstructing law enforcement, and using explosives to commit a felony. In June, a federal grand jury in Portland indicted Muhammed on the same charges, according to the announcement.
Possessing an unregistered destructive device is punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison per count of conviction. With Muhammed’s continued acceptance of responsibility, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will recommend a sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
He will be sentenced on June 21, 2022 before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Marco A. Hernandez.
The change of plea, said prosecutors, is part of a global resolution of Muhammed’s federal and state criminal cases. He is scheduled to plead guilty and be sentenced in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Tuesday, added the announcement.
The Portland Police Bureau, FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are investigating the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam E. Delph is prosecuting the case.