News and Commentary

Journalist, Others Charged Over Firebombing Police Vehicles In Arkansas This Summer
Police action during emergency with car in flames at night. - stock photo
Artur Debat/Getty Images

Four suspects, including an Arkansas journalist, have been charged for firebombing police vehicles over the summer.

Fox News reported that Renea Baek Goddard, 22, was part of a group that broke into a police compound in late August and threw Molotov cocktails at Little Rock Police Department vehicles. Outside the compound, protesters demonstrated as part of the racial protests that broke out after the May 25 police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The Department of Justice issued a press release on December 17 announcing the charges following a months-long investigation into the incident.

“On August 25, 2020, a large group of protestors held a demonstration at the Little Rock Police Department 12th Street Substation. The following morning, officers arriving for duty noticed that several police vehicles in their parking lot had punctured tires. Officers also saw two green glass bottles with fluid inside that smelled like gasoline. The bottles were examined and found to be consistent with improvised incendiary devices, commonly referred to as Molotov cocktails,” the DOJ said in the release.

“Today’s arrests send a message that violence targeted toward law enforcement will not be tolerated,” U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland said in the release. “Breaking into a police compound and fire bombing a police vehicle with a homemade explosive device is clearly not a peaceful protest. Those who would target law enforcement with violent acts will not do so in the Eastern District of Arkansas without the full resources of the federal government being deployed to assist our state and local partners in bringing those responsible to justice. They will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

More from the DOJ:

According to the Complaint, surveillance footage reflected that two individuals were moving near the parking lot after the protests, and a flaming object can be observed being launched into the parking lot area. Cooperating witnesses stated that the Molotov cocktails were assembled at Brittany Dawn Jeffrey’s residence. 

The Complaint states that on August 28, 2020, an Arkansas State Police vehicle was vandalized and burned while stored in a fenced parking lot at Arkansas State Police Headquarters in Little Rock. One vehicle had been set on fire, one had been vandalized with spray paint, and several others had punctured tires. Investigators discovered a detonated Molotov cocktail made from a bottle of brandy.

 Surveillance video from that incident shows three people entering the vehicle storage area wearing dark clothing and backpacks. The video shows them bending down in a motion consistent with slashing vehicle tires as well as throwing a lighted object into a police vehicle. The Complaint states that witnesses informed law enforcement that Renea Goddard, Emily Nowlin, and Aline Espinosa-Villegas were responsible for the incident. Federal search warrants were executed to obtain the locations of their cell phones, and cell site data confirmed that their cell phones were in the location of Arkansas State Police Headquarters on August 28, 2020.

Fox reported that the journalist “has worked for KUAR Public Radio in Little Rock, contributed to the LGBTQ news outlet Autostraddle and interned for Arkansas Public Media after attending the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.”

The other three arrested for the incident were Brittany Dawn Jeffrey, 31; Emily Nowlin, 27; and Aline Espinosa-Villegas, 24.