A Chicago man who set a police SUV on fire amid the May 2020 rioting downtown became “filled with rage, with passion, and didn’t have time to think twice” after he saw police show “blatant disregard for the law and human life” that day, according to his attorney.
The defense lawyer for 23-year-old Jacob Fagundo alleged in a court filing Thursday that the School of the Art Institute student saw a police officer “split open the head of [a] young girl with whom he was — at that time — peacefully protesting” in Chicago on May 30, 2020.
That’s when attorney Robert Kerr said Fagundo’s “personal shortcomings caught up with him,” prompting him to throw a lit firework into a Chicago police vehicle. Kerr also wrote in a memo that Fagundo hadn’t been “on top of [his] mental health like [he] should’ve been.”
Kerr called it an “aberration” in Fagundo’s behavior. He noted that Fagundo promptly surrendered to authorities when he learned they were looking for him, and he pleaded guilty. Kerr asked U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman to sentence Fagundo to probation.
Federal prosecutors say Fagundo should spend between eight and 14 months in prison for committing a crime “against the fabric of our democratic society while it was being pulled apart.”
Fagundo’s sentencing hearing July 14 may be the first in Chicago’s federal court to directly address the downtown violence after the murder of George Floyd by then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Though Fagundo originally faced charges in state court, the feds wound up filing charges against him in late March. He pleaded guilty in early April to obstructing law enforcement amid a civil disorder. Meanwhile, Kerr said Fagundo participated in May graduation ceremonies at the School of the Art Institute, and he is awaiting confirmation that he has earned his final credits.
At the school, Kerr wrote that Fagundo “not only came to be regarded as an employee, student, mentor, role model, and friend of the highest character, he came to be known as [an] incredibly talented artist.”
Still, Assistant U.S. Attorney John D. Cooke wrote that Fagundo “came to a tinderbox on May 30, 2020 — Chicago beset by civil disorder amid protests aimed at police conduct — and threw a lit match into it.”
When Fagundo pleaded guilty in April, the prosecutor told Gettleman that Fagundo had purchased fireworks, lighter fluid and other products at a department store on May 29, 2020, ahead of the George Floyd protests. The next day, Cooke said, Fagundo joined with others and spray-painted a Chicago police vehicle.
The evening of May 30, 2020, Cooke said Fagundo discovered a CPD SUV in a garage at 30 E. Kinzie St. The prosecutor said Fagundo and others shattered some of the vehicle’s windows, including its rear windshield. Then, about 6:45 p.m., Cooke said Fagundo lit a firework and tossed it through the SUV’s rear window frame.
Fagundo fled when police arrived, Cooke said. The prosecutor said the vehicle was a total loss, and it cost CPD $58,125 to replace it. The judge is expected to order Fagundo to pay that amount in restitution at sentencing.
Another man, Timothy O’Donnell, is also charged in federal court with setting fire to a CPD vehicle while wearing a “Joker” mask. He is set to go to trial Feb. 7.