CLEVELAND — Two men are facing federal charges connected to the events of last weekend's violence in downtown Cleveland, which happened as peaceful protesters had gathered to call for justice in the death of George Floyd.
Those arrested were identified Friday morning as 23-year-old Brandon Althof-Long and 22-year-old Devon Bryce Poland. Both live in Erie, Pennsylvania.
“Last Saturday, just six days before today’s arrests, these two individuals discussed, planned and traveled to our city with the explicit intent to destroy and incite violence," said Eric Smith, FBI Special Agent in Charge. "These two were detained by the Cleveland Police Department in downtown Cleveland during restricted curfew hours. Their vehicle was searched. Items found in the vehicle included a firearm, numerous rounds of ammunition, fire gel and a hammer, among other items.”
Smith said a federal search warrant was obtained for two Apple iPhones during the investigation in which messages between the suspects were reviewed.
“Their sole aim was to fan the literal flames of rioters because, and I quote from their messages, ‘It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,'" Smith said.
According to the criminal complaint, Althof-Long and Poland were still in Pennsylvania at 8pm on Saturday. Althof-Long messaged Poland at 8:04pm that he was leaving to pick him up.
Althof-Long responded, “Sadly enough I think I have everything needed for a Molotov in my car. Like normally.”
3News investigator Rachel Polansky asked Special Agent Smith if the two men were acting alone, or if they were involved with an organized group or movement. There's been a lot of talk about Antifa in recent days.
Smith answered, "It's still early in the investigation but I think additional research will determine whether or not there was a greater group at work here. We've not uncovered any association with other groups but it's still to early to be determined."
U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said the two suspects face a variety of federal offenses, which include: Transporting a firearm or incendiary device in furtherance of civil disorder and conspiracy to use fire or an explosion in furtherance of a federal felony.
“They were not from here. They arrived with weapons and ingredients for an incendiary device," Herdman said. "They purposely inserted themselves into a Constitutionally protected protest with a design to exploit it for their own purposes. Then they were later found in the midst of unprecedented rioting and looting in the streets of our city.”
Herdman said more investigations are underway and pursuing federal charges on a series of people responsible for the destruction downtown.
“Last weekend, if you burnt a car, if you broke into a store, if you beat somebody up, we are going to find you and we are going to hold you accountable with federal charges as appropriate. If not, we’re going to assist our county prosecutor partners with state charges."
Smith echoed those sentiments.
“The FBI along with all of our federal, state and local partners will not cease in our efforts to bring those responsible in last Saturday’s carnage to justice. We will review every photo, every video and review every violent posting uploaded to social media to piece together what happened and who had a hand in making it happen. You may think that you are anonymous. You may think that you escaped the city last Saturday night, but Mr. Poland and Mr. Long thought the same thing.”
A search of court records revealed that neither man had serious charges before today's arrest. Poland was arrested for an assault in 2017, but that case was later dismissed.
3News Investigates also found the below photos on Althof-Long's Facebook page.