Tennessee man facing federal arson charges stemming from Nashville courthouse fire

A Tennessee man has been charged in connection with setting fire to a historic Nashville courthouse--which serves as a City Hall--during a protest over the death of George Floyd, authorities said.

Wesley Somers, 25, of Hendersonville, was arrested Sunday by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department on state arson charges. He was further charged by federal prosecutors Wednesday with malicious destruction of property using fire or explosives for his role in the destruction of the Metro Courthouse, according to Department of Justice news release.

Video clips and photos show a shirtless man identified as Somers smashing a courthouse window and setting fire to an accelerant and placing it inside the window following a peaceful May 30 protest in downtown Nashville, the release said.

Federal prosecutors have charged Wesley Somers, 25, with arson charges in connection with a Nashville, Tenn., courthouse fire during a protest over the death of George Floyd.

Federal prosecutors have charged Wesley Somers, 25, with arson charges in connection with a Nashville, Tenn., courthouse fire during a protest over the death of George Floyd. (Justice Department )

“This is one of our most sacred liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment of our Constitution," said U.S. Attorney Don Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee. "We will also vigorously pursue those who choose to exploit such assemblies and use violence and intimidation in order to change the dynamics of an otherwise peaceful protest.”

Several chest tattoos on Somers depicting the phrases “WILD CHILD” and “HARD 2 Love” helped authorities identify him, prosecutors said. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

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The courthouse windows were smashed and fires were started inside the building during Saturday night's rioting, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. A plaque commemorating the civil rights movement was also destroyed.

Somers' arrest comes as looting and riots have erupted in chaotic demonstrations across the country over the past week in response to Floyd's death and police brutality. George Floyd died on May 25 while in police custody after an officer pressed a knee on his neck for 8 minutes in an act that was captured on cellphone video and went viral.