MINNEAPOLIS (CBS Chicago/CBS Minnesota) -- A downstate Illinois man has been sentenced to nearly nine years in prison for setting a cellphone store on fire in Minneapolis during the unrest following the murder of George Floyd by police there.
Court documents said on May 28, 2020, Rupert – of Galesburg – posted messages on his Facebook account referencing the protest that happened following the murder of George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin. One of them said, "I'm going to Minneapolis tomorrow who coming only goons I'm renting hotel rooms," prosecutors said.
The following day, Rupert broadcast a video on Facebook Live from Minneapolis, in which he announced he had come to that city to "riot" and was seen handing out artillery-shell fireworks while calling for violence against police and for actively looting and damaging property, prosecutors said.
The video also shows Rupert asking for lighter fluid and then going into a boarded-up Sprint store on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis – where he knocked over several boxes and piled them onto the floor, doused them with lighter fluid, and directed someone else to set them on fire. The fire seriously damaged the building, prosecutors said.
"Matthew Rupert chose to drive more than 400 miles from his home in Illinois to Minnesota to engage in violence and destruction, all while broadcasting it for the world to see. Peaceful protest was not on his agenda," Acting Minnesota U.S. Attorney W. Anders Folk. "Arson, looting, property damage, and the glorification of it, will not be tolerated. Today, justice has caught up with Mr. Rupert as he must now account for his crimes."
Rupert was charged with causing civil disorder, rioting, and possession of unregistered explosive devices on June 1 of 2020. He pleaded guilty in April of this year.
He was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison and three years of supervised release.
Rupert is also charged separately with traveling to Chicago a couple of days later to participate in civil unrest.
On Saturday, May 30, 2020, Rupert posted on Facebook that he was traveling to Chicago to "loot 'til 2:30," according to the complaint. Early the following morning, he posted more video showing him in Chicago, saying, "Let's start a riot" and "I am going to do some damage."
He is seen on video in the vicinity of Dearborn and Van Buren streets around 12:21 a.m. that morning. At one point, he goes into a looted convenience store near Plymouth Court and Ida B. Wells Drive and stuffs merchandise into his backpack, according to the complaint.
Rupert was arrested at 2:21 a.m. on May 31, 2020, for violating Chicago's emergency curfew order that was in effect in the wake of the unrest. Law enforcement officers searched Rupert's vehicle and recovered several destructive devices, a hammer, a heavy-duty flashlight, and cash.
At CBS 2 following Rupert's arrest, we listened to much of the audio on the Rupert Facebook Live feeds. We heard lots about stealing, destroying, and burning things, but we didn't hear anything about George Floyd or concerns about injustice.
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