(STL.News) – A Palm Desert man was named today in a federal criminal complaint that charges him with attempted arson in the May 31 firebombing of the East Valley Republican Women Federated (EVRWF) office in La Quinta.
Carlos Espriu, 23, who is currently in state custody, is expected to be taken into federal custody later today and make an initial appearance Friday afternoon in United States District Court.
The criminal complaint alleges that, just after 1:15 a.m. on May 31, a masked Espriu used a metal baseball bat to break windows at the EVRWF headquarters, and then he lighted an improvised incendiary device constructed of three bottles that he tossed through the windows before fleeing. Several minutes later, surveillance video shows Espriu returning to the EVRWF office, smashing more windows with the bat and reaching into building to retrieve the Molotov cocktails before walking away with the device. According to the complaint, Espriu returned to the EVRWF office about 30 seconds later, this time without a mask, and threw the set of bottles into the facility, which immediately caused a fire to start.
EVRWF offered a reward for information about the firebombing, which prompted several members of the public to come forward with information that allowed law enforcement officials to identify Espriu as the man seen in surveillance video taken by EVRWF and a nearby business, according to the complaint.
The affidavit in support of the complaint outlines steps taken by investigators to link Espriu to the firebombing. Law enforcement identified social media accounts believed to belong to Espriu, including a Twitter account that, three days before the EVRWF arson, tweeted: “I wanna go burn shit n get hit with tear gas.” They also observed Espriu repeatedly using a vehicle closely resembling one seen on the surveillance footage.
The complaint also outlines the results of search warrants executed at Espriu’s residence in July that led to the recovery of a green lighter very similar to the one used to light the Molotov cocktails, as well as audio recordings from a dashboard camera in which Espriu tells a woman in late June that he shaved his facial hair after seeing some of the surveillance video broadcast on local news. In the audio recordings, Espriu tells the woman how he manufactured the Molotov cocktails by filling three bottles with gasoline and inserting a towel into one bottle, and then he recounts the details of the firebombing as seen on the surveillance video, according to the complaint.
The firebombing caused limited damage to the EVRWF headquarters.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The complaint charges Espriu with one count of attempted arson. If he were to be convicted of the offense, Espriu would face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison and statutory maximum sentence of 20 years.
The investigation in this matter is being conducted by the FBI’s Inland Empire Joint Terrorism Task Force.