Chicago man admits setting fire to CTA van amid 2020 riots

A Chicago man admitted Tuesday he helped set fire to an unoccupied Chicago Transit Authority van amid the rioting and looting that consumed downtown Chicago in May 2020 after he declared on video that, “I’m on my way to protest for a Rolex.”

Lamar Taylor pleaded guilty to an arson conspiracy and civil disorder. He faces a likely sentence of more than three years in prison. His sentencing hearing is set for Aug. 30.

Taylor claimed after he’d first been charged that he saw police fatally shoot his brother in March 2014, and he was therefore triggered by the murder of George Floyd by then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

But federal prosecutors called that explanation “disingenuous and outright shameful.” They pointed to a video Taylor posted on Facebook Live on his way downtown on May 30, 2020, in which Taylor made “air quotes” with his hands as he said he was on his way to “protest.”

“We going down here to get busy, like everybody else,” Taylor said, adding later, “I’m trying to get that $50,000 Rolex.”

The CTA van Lamar Taylor admitted he helped set fire to on May 30, 2020.

U.S. District Court records

Taylor was originally charged along with Denzal Stewart of Chicago and Darion Lindsey of Park Forest. Charges are still pending against Stewart and Lindsey, though a competency evaluation has been ordered for Lindsey.

In his plea agreement, Taylor admitted that he and Stewart traveled downtown by car, bringing along face masks, gloves and a lighter. Taylor showed off the gloves and a ski mask in the video he posted on his way downtown.

Taylor and Stewart later approached the CTA van, and Taylor got inside, according to the plea agreement. While Stewart watched, Taylor used a lighter to try to set the van on fire, the document said. Taylor then exited and closed all of the doors before the pair left.Taylor then returned and briefly got back inside the van.

Stewart then returned, picked up a cardboard box from the street, placed it inside the van through the driver’s side door and shut the door, according to the document. Smoke could be seen coming from the van 30 seconds later. Then, Stewart returned once more and threw an accelerant into the van, the plea agreement said.

That’s when the vehicle became engulfed in flames, according to the document.

Timothy O’Donnell and Jacob Fagundo also faced charges in federal court for setting fires to Chicago police vehicles during the same May 2020 riots. U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman gave Fagundo three years of probation.

O’Donnell, who wore a Joker mask during the riots, faces sentencing next month.

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