A man who set fire to a historic commercial building in downtown La Mesa after protesting police brutality that led to rioting pleaded guilty on Wednesday of arson and vandalism.
Daniel Louis Sandoval, 44, of Campo, was arrested about six months after prosecutors said he had died on Jan.
Listed as Historically Significant by the La Mesa Historical Society, it was one of several buildings, including two banks, that burned to the ground during the riot.
In addition to the fire at Randall Lamb’s building, Sandoval pleaded guilty to vandalism charges relating to Spa Piel, a nearby company. He is due to be sentenced on November 29th.
The protest was sparked by the death of George Floyd in custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day and the arrest of another black man, Amaurie Johnson, a few days later in La Mesa.
Johnson’s arrest by Matthew Dages, the La Mesa police officer, was videotaped and broadcast on social media, sparking widespread backlash against police and a federal lawsuit filed by Johnson against the city.
Dages has since been charged with a crime of filing a false police report for allegedly lying about the basis of his contact with Johnson.
The protest began with protesters marching on Interstate 8 that afternoon before the group moved to the La Mesa Police Station. Although the protest began peacefully, a confrontation broke out at dusk, with some protesters throwing objects and officials firing bean bags and tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Sandoval’s admission of guilt marks the third conviction for a crime related to the riot.
Ricky Bernard Cooper, 34, pleaded guilty to arson and burglary last week for the fire that destroyed the Chase bank branch on Spring Street.
Zachary Alexander Karas, 29, was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison in August after a jury convicted him of bringing Molotov cocktails to the protests.