(STL.News) – A Palm Desert man was named in a federal criminal complaint today accusing him of attempting arson in the fire bombardment of the East Valley Republican Women Federated (EVRWF) office in La Quinta on May 31.
Carlos Espriu, 23, currently in state custody, is expected to be in federal detention today and will appear before the United States District Court on Friday afternoon.
The criminal complaint alleges that shortly after 1:15 a.m. on May 31, a masked Espriu used a metal baseball bat to break windows at EVRWF headquarters and then set an improvised incendiary device consisting of three bottles that he set on fire threw through the window before fleeing. A few minutes later, a surveillance video shows Espriu returning to the EVRWF office, smashing more windows with the bat, and reaching into the building to get the Molotov cocktails before leaving with the device. According to the complaint, Espriu returned to the EVRWF office about 30 seconds later, this time without a mask, and threw the set of bottles into the facility, immediately causing a fire.
The EVRWF offered a reward for information about the incendiary bomb, which prompted several members of the public to provide information that enabled law enforcement officers to identify Espriu as the man featured in a surveillance video from the EVRWF and a nearby company.
The affidavit in support of the complaint describes the measures taken by the investigators to link Espriu to the incendiary attack. Law enforcement agencies identified social media accounts believed to be owned by Espriu, including a Twitter account that tweeted, "I want to burn shit and be hit by tear gas," three days before the EVRWF was set on fire. They observed Espriu also repeatedly with a vehicle very similar to the vehicle shown on the surveillance footage.
The complaint also outlines the results of search warrants carried out in Esprius' residence in July that resulted in the restoration of a green lighter very similar to the one used to light the Molotov cocktails, as well as audio recordings from a dashboard camera in the Espriu A woman reported in late June that he shaved his facial hair after watching some of the surveillance videos that aired on local news. In the audio recordings, Espriu tells the woman how he made the Molotov cocktails by filling three bottles with gasoline and putting a towel in one bottle. Then, according to the complaint, he tells the details of the incendiary bomb as they can be seen on the surveillance video.
The incendiary bomb caused limited damage to the EVRWF headquarters.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond any doubt.
The complaint accuses Espriu of attempted arson. If convicted of the crime, Espriu would face a mandatory minimum five-year sentence in federal prison and a maximum legal sentence of 20 years.
The investigations into this are carried out by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in the Inland Empire.
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