Two of the three individuals accused of burning a Wendy’s to the ground during the 2020 BLM riots have pleaded guilty. For reducing the business to ash and rubble, Chisom Kingston and the woman whom Rayshard Brooks indicated was his “girlfriend,” Natalie Hanna White, will have to pay a $500 fine and complete 150 hours of community service.
What’s the background?
On June 12, Atlanta police attempted to arrest 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks at a Wendy’s drive-thru in Atlanta after he blew over the legal limit on a Breathalyzer test. However, Brooks struck APD officer Devan Brosnan, grabbed the officer’s taser, and attempted to flee.
The officers were initially slapped with a litany of charges by former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard. However, a Georgia special prosecutor ultimately found in August 2022 that both officers “acted as reasonable officers would under the facts and circumstances of the events of that night.”
Special prosecutor Peter Skandalakis stated, “Both acted in accordance with well-established law and were justified in the use of force regarding the situation.”
While clarity ultimately prevailed, it was evidently in short supply on June 13, 2020 — not only because the anti-police narrative had been set following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis the previous month, but because liberal publications repeatedly claimed police had killed “an unarmed black man,” notwithstanding the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s clear indication that Brooks had been wielding an officer’s stun gun.
Torching the burger joint
Rioters mobbed the Wendy’s on University Avenue in southwest Atlanta and shutdown a nearby interstate the evening of June 13. In addition to torching cars in the area and clashing with police, rioters set the restaurant ablaze.
WAGA-TV reported that by 9:30 p.m., flames could be seen shooting out of the restaurant.
The fire raged for over 45 minutes until firefighters, protected by a line of police officers, were able to put it out.
According to Atlanta Fire Department officials, the Wendy’s fire was started in multiple locations using various incendiary devices.
Footage shot moments before the fire began consuming the building showed a woman, later identified as White, ignite an aerosol can while others smashed the restaurant’s windows.
White was arrested in June 2020. The following month, Kingston and arsonist John Wesley Wade were also arrested.
Indictments and pleas
White, Kingston, and Wade were indicted in January 2022. The indictment listed two counts of first-degree arson and a count of conspiracy to commit arson in the first degree, reported WSB-TV.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said at the time, “I think this indictment is particularly important. It sends a message that we are a community that supports protesting. We certainly know it’s one of your constitutional rights but what we do not tolerate is violent protest.”
“It is unacceptable to burn down a building in our community even in the name of a protest,” added Willis.
Ahead of their trial this week, Kingston and White entered negotiated guilty pleas, according to Fulton County court documents.
John Wesley Wade, who has been held in federal prison, is set to go to trial Tuesday over the Wendy’s arson.
While Wade faces the same charges as Brooks’ apparent girlfriend and Kingston, he previously pleaded guilty to federal arson charges, having torched five postal trucks in Atlanta after the Wendy’s went up in smoke.
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