Wesley Somers

Wesley Somers

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – A man was charged with setting a fire to the historic Nashville Courthouse Saturday night is now facing federal charges.

Metro Nashville Police Department Specialized Investigations Division detectives and SWAT officers arrested 25-year-old Wesley Somers, of Hendersonville, on charges of felony arson, vandalism and disorderly conduct for setting the fire.

On Tuesday, Summers was charged with malicious destruction of property using fire or explosives. The announcement of federal charges was made by U.S. Attorney Don Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee and Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.

The initial arrest of Summers comes after numerous people gathered outside of the Metro Courthouse, following protests for George Floyd. Federal authorities said Summers was depicted in videos and photos “attempting to smash windows of the Courthouse with a long object.”

Authorities said Summers was seen “holding an unknown accelerant, which had been set on fire, and placing the accelerant through the window of the Courthouse.”

In another photo, authorities said Summers was seen "setting fire to an accelerant and placing it inside a window located on the exterior of the Courthouse."

Numerous tips from the public led to the arrest of Summers. He is facing five to 20 years on these federal charges.

“We will always vigorously defend the right of every individual to assemble and protest,” Cochran said in a statement on Wednesday. “This is one of our most sacred liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment of our Constitution. We will also vigorously pursue those who choose to exploit such assemblies and use violence and intimidation in order to change the dynamics of an otherwise peaceful protest.”

“The Department of Justice will vindicate the First Amendment rights of all Americans to speak, assemble and seek a redress of grievances from their government,” Demers said in a statement on Wednesday. “We cannot tolerate, however, those who would take advantage of moments of real anguish to endanger the innocent and destroy their property.”

Somers was supposed to appear in front of judge on Wednesday. However, his case on felony arson, vandalism and disorderly conduct charges was continued to June 16.

 

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