An 18-year-old Portland, Oregon, protester who now faces arson charges was tracked down in part because his Trump-supporting grandmother identified him online.
Early Tuesday, a crude bomb was thrown at the federal courthouse in Portland that has been the subject of attacks from protesters.
Gabriel Agard-Berryhill, 18, surrendered to law enforcement on Thursday, according to Oregon Live. Agard-Berryhill was charged with arson. A hearing was held for him on Friday after which he was released without bail on the condition he not return to the protest site.
Because the Portland riots have been social media sensations, images and videos were combed to find images of the individual who wore a distinctive olive vest with the word “ICONS” upon it who appeared to be throwing the object that was later identified as a bomb.
But there was a subplot identified by journalist Andy Ngo in a piece published Saturday by the New York Post.
— New York Post (@nypost) August 1, 2020
Karla Fox, Agard-Berryhill’s grandmother, had already identified the individual in the videos because she bought the vest he was wearing at the time.
“I bought the vest for him after he found one online after getting hit with rubber bullets the night before at the protest,” Fox said, according to Ngo.
Fox had previously left a positive review of the vest online, writing “I got this for my grandson who’s a protester downtown, he uses it every night and says it does the job,” Ngo wrote.
She had also responded to a social media user who’d posted a picture of a young man in the now-very distinctive vest, standing with the naked Portland protester who became known as “Naked Athena.”
“This is my only grandson, I love him to death, and didn’t know he was going to do such a bad thing, I had been posting several things about the antifa and BLM, he knows I am against those riots bigtime…he chose his poison,” she later posted on Twitter, using the handle “TRUMPSGIRL2020.”
This is my only grandson, I love him to death, and didn’t know he was going to do such a bad thing, I had been posting several things about the antifa and BLM, he knows I am against those riots bigtime…he chose his poison https://t.co/AdVBgh9Kjy
— Author K J Hafdahl (@TRUMPSGIRL2020) July 29, 2020
Agard-Berryhill initially said he did nothing wrong.
“The device I’ve been accused of allegedly throwing was allegedly given to me by an unknown protestor with full face coverings,” he wrote in an email to the Post, accoring to Ngo. “I was allegedly told that it was a strobe firework that wouldn’t damage the building or harm anyone around it. Law enforcement has not contacted me for any alleged crime as of right now.”
But after a time, he changed his mind and contacted his probation officer to facilitate a surrender. (He already had a felony conviction from when he was a minor, Ngo wrote.)
Officials were not forgiving.
“No legitimate protest message is advanced by throwing a large explosive device against a government building. Mr. Agard-Berryhill’s actions could have gravely injured law enforcement officers positioned near the courthouse, other protesters standing nearby, or himself,” Oregon District U.S. Attorney Billy Williams said in a statement.
Fox said her grandson had told her he was peacefully protesting in Portland.
“I believed all his stories,” Fox said, according to Ngo. “He said he was just hanging out at Riot Ribs [a food co-op] and doing peaceful things.”
“I don’t condone any of this. I am amazed at all of these events.”
According to Ngo, Fox said Agard-Berryhill is on probation for a felony conviction that he received while a minor and that he had two years at Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility in Grants Pass, Oregon.
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