TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren announced Thursday that he has filed charges against eleven people who allegedly looted during unrest in the county on May 30 and 31.
According to a news release, eleven people are charged with various felony crimes including burglary, rioting, battery on a law enforcement officer and cocaine possession, a total of 15 felony crimes.
The defendants are accused of actively looting or attempting to break into businesses in the Hillsborough Avenue and University areas of Tampa and Temple Terrace as protests unfolded in the city.
“Keep in mind how difficult it is to catch people doing this, when there’s so many people in the moment doing it. For law enforcement to have to go into a store, where there are people running out and they don’t know what’s going on and there are way more people than law enforcement officers, they put themselves at risk,” Warren said.
About 200 people were caught on camera looting a Walmart on East Fletcher Avenue on May 30, after breaking into the store with hammers and other blunt objects.
Looters also targeted a CVS on East Fowler Avenue, shattering the glass front doors. And the Gold N Diamonds store on Fowler Avenue was also looted. Managers said at least $100,000 worth of fine jewelry was stolen.
Protests erupted around the country last month following the death of George Floyd who died after three Minneapolis officers pinned him down for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
Earlier this week, Warren dismissed dozens of cases against 67 demonstrators in Tampa, saying they had been peacefully protesting.
“If you’re out to peacefully protest, you can expect support from our community. But if you’re out to hurt, destroy, or steal—you can expect to be held accountable under the law,” Warren said Thursday.
Warren’s office is reviewing evidence from more than 130 arrest reports gathered by law enforcement since May 30. They say more charges are expected.
“This community will not tolerate, and I will not tolerate people exploiting that moment to create crimes, selfishly, for personal gain or to cause destruction,” Warren said.
8 On Your Side stopped by LED King, a business along E. Fowler Avenue that was struck by violence. The business remains boarded up and a window on the side is still broken.
“We don’t support police brutality. Our hearts go out to all the victims who suffer from police brutality, but at the end of the day, businesses like this and many others should not suffer,” said Mohammed Belim, a store manager.