Fayetteville man showed gas canister to crowd before Market House caught fire, authorities say

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Friday, June 5, 2020
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According to authorities, Charles Pittman was seen on video showing a red gasoline canister to the crowd of demonstrators before pouring it throughout the second story of the Market House.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- A man is charged in connection to a fire set inside the controversial Market House on Hay Street in downtown Fayetteville during a protest Saturday night.

Demonstrators gathered in front of the historic building, where slaves were once sold, on Saturday to demand justice for George Floyd. Floyd was killed by former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin when Chauvin kneeled on his neck for eight minutes and 42 seconds. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder in his death; three other officers who did not intervene are charged with abetting second-degree murder.

According to a news release from U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Charles Anthony Pittman, of Fayetteville, was seen on camera showing a red gasoline canister to the crowd gathered in front of the Market House before pouring its contents throughout the building's second floor. As Pitman ran out of the video, authorities said, the floor caught fire. Several other people, including a Market House employee, were still inside the building.

Additionally, authorities said Pittman also recorded an earlier Facebook Live video during which he drove around the building, scoping the scene and discussing whether the building should come down.

Pittman was arrested by Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco special agents and is charged with maliciously damaging property owned or possessed by an institution receiving federal financial assistance. The charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years and a maximum sentence of 40 years, in addition to a maximum $250,000 fine.

Pittman's first court appearance will be June 9.