On Wednesday, Matthew Lee Rupert, 28, of Galesburg, pleaded guilty to one count of arson in U.S. District Court in Minnesota for a fire set at a Minneapolis cell phone store on May 29, 2020.
According to court documents, Rupert posted messages on his Facebook account on May 28, 2020, about the protests in the Minneapolis area after the death of George Floyd. In one he stated, “I’m going to Minneapolis tomorrow who coming only goons I’m renting hotel rooms.”
On May 29, 2020, Rupert posted a cell phone video of himself on his Facebook account indicating he was in Minneapolis.
Later in a Facebook Live video posted by Rupert, he proclaimed he came “to riot,” and is seen encouraging violence against police, damaging property, breaking into buildings, and looting businesses.
The same video shows Rupert asking for lighter fluid before entering a boarded up Sprint store on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis. He searches the store and enters a backroom telling others he found a safe. Several individuals, including Rupert, knock several boxes in a pile on the ground. Rupert then sprays the pile with lighter fluid and, with encouragement from Rupert, a juvenile in the room lights the pile on fire. Rupert runs from the building shouting, “I lit it on fire!”
The store sustained damage from the fire.
A sentencing date will be scheduled at a later time.
The case was investigated by the FBI Minneapolis Field Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), with assistance from the FBI Chicago Field Office, the FBI Springfield Office, and the Chicago Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Angela M. Munoz and Jordan L. Sing.