LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — An Irvine man was taken into federal custody Tuesday for allegedly setting fire to a Santa Monica Police Department vehicle during recent protests and civil unrest.
Nathan Wilson, 27, was charged in a federal criminal complaint after being linked to the May 31 fire that destroyed an unmarked Santa Monica police car, according to the Department of Justice. Wilson was arrested on Oct. 9 after he was found hiding in a mattress box spring in the bedroom of his Irvine home, where authorities say they also recovered clothes that appeared to match those seen in photos taken near the destroyed police car.
Do you recognize this suspect who is seen in photos wearing a hat from Don Pisto restaurant? He's wanted by #FBI & @SantaMonicaPD for the #arson of a police vehicle on May 31, 2020. Call SMPD or FBi to claim the #Reward offered. #SafeLA #FugitiveFridayhttps://t.co/uSJVseZaFX
— FBI Los Angeles (@FBILosAngeles) August 7, 2020
The FBI and Santa Monica police had released a wanted poster about the police car fire in early June, but Wilson did not come to the attention of authorities until he became a suspect in a Sept. 28 arson of his live-in partner’s vehicle after a domestic dispute in Irvine. Following the Irvine fire, authorities got information linking Wilson to the May 31 fire in Santa Monica, DOJ officials said.
A witness told law enforcement they had driven Wilson to Santa Monica on May 31 and believed he had set fire to the police car, federal authorities said. The witness pointed authorities to one of Wilson’s social media accounts, an Instagram account with a user name “yup_i_eat_crayons,” where he had posted a selfie taken in Santa Monica on May 31, according to an affidavit filed with the federal criminal complaint. In the image, the affidavit alleges Wilson wore certain clothes an accessories, an American flag bandana and had the distinctive tattoo of a rifle on his left arm, matching the images of the person who set fire to the police car, which had been parked at the loading dock of the Santa Monica Civic Center.
Wilson is scheduled to make his first court appearance Tuesday in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles. If convicted as charged, Wilson faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years.