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Cleveland Man Arrested For Starting Fire During May 30 Protests

The May 30, 2020 protests in Cleveland began peacefully but eventually turned into violent. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
photo of police during protests

A Cleveland man was charged Thursday for lighting a fire at Rebol Restaurant in Public Square during the May 30 protests in Downtown Cleveland last year.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District filed the charges in federal court three months after federal law enforcement released a photo of the suspect, Michael Sloan, and offered a $1,000 award.

According to court documents, Sloan was allegedly seen on city of Cleveland surveillance cameras entering Rebol at around 8:30 p.m. during the protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Sloan is seen standing by the service counter, followed by the appearance of a fire. Within five minutes, police arrive and extinguish the fire.

Sloan turned himself in to the Shaker Heights Police Department shortly after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent out the photo.

According to court documents, the government waited more than two months to charge Sloan because COVID-related delays continue to hamper the grand jury process. Sloan is out of jail on $20,000 bond.

Sloan is charged with attempting to maliciously damage or destroy a building by means of fire, which carries a sentence of between five and 20 years.

The charge of lighting a fire qualifies as a federal offense in this case because Rebol engages in interstate commerce, specifically because it uses an electronic payment system that has its headquarters in Massachusetts.

The federal government recently dropped charges against two Pennsylvania men charged in the immediate aftermath of the May 30 protests.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.