A criminal complaint issued June 3 charged Wesley Somers, 25 of Hendersonville, with malicious destruction of property using fire or explosives, according to U.S. Attorney Don Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee and Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.
The complaint alleges that on the afternoon of May 30, protesters gathered in downtown Nashville following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn.
“Later in the evening, a number of persons gathered in front of the Nashville City Hall, also known as the Metro Courthouse,” according to a media release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “Using various tools, including crowbars and other objects, they began smashing the windows of the premises and spraying graffiti on the courthouse facade. One or more fires were also set inside of the courthouse at this time.”
Somers, who has distinctive chest tattoos with the words “WILD CHILD” and “HARD 2 Love,” was seen on video and in photographs attempting to smash the windows of the Courthouse with a long object. One photograph in particular showed him holding an unknown accelerant and placing it through the window of the courthouse, according to federal authorities.
Somers was identified by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department – Specialized Investigation Division, after receiving numerous tips from citizens, and was arrested in Madison, Tenn., on state arson charges on May 31.
“We will always vigorously defend the right of every individual to assemble and protest,” said Cochran. “This is one of our most sacred liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment of our Constitution. We will also vigorously pursue those who choose to exploit such assemblies and use violence and intimidation in order to change the dynamics of an otherwise peaceful protest.”
“The Department of Justice will vindicate the First Amendment rights of all Americans to speak, assemble and seek a redress of grievances from their government,” according to Demers. “We cannot tolerate, however, those who would take advantage of moments of real anguish to endanger the innocent and destroy their property.”
According to Somers’ Facebook page, he is a Hendersonville resident who attended Hendersonville High School. The U.S. Attorney’s Office identified him as a Hendersonville resident, but several people on social media have said he no longer lives here.
Somers’ criminal history includes several charges in Davidson and Sumner counties including drug possession, child neglect, domestic assault and violation of a protective order.
If convicted, Somers faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and up to 20 years in prison.