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Tampa man pleads guilty to setting Champs Sports store on fire during 2020 riot

The store suffered thousands of dollars worth of damage, according to police.

TAMPA, Fla. — The man accused of nearly burning down a Champs Sports in Tampa during a night of rioting last May has pleaded guilty to a federal arson charge.

The U.S. Attorney's Office confirmed 20-year-old Terrance Lee Hester Jr. appeared in federal court Tuesday to enter the plea. While a sentencing date has yet to be set, if convicted, his charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

The mandatory minimum sentence is 5 years.

Officers with the Tampa Police Department first began searching for the man responsible for the damage in June 2020. At the time, they said the damage was caused by what appeared to be a burning shirt thrown through a broken window at the store on Fowler Avenue.

"Video footage obtained by investigators revealed that Hester had participated in the civil disturbance and tossed a flaming piece of cloth into the Champs Sports store through a broken window," the Department of Justice wrote in a statement. "Fire investigators determined that the fire originated inside the Champs Sports store, and Hester’s act caused or contributed to the cause of the fire."

Prosecutors say roughly $1.25 million in damage was caused to the Champs Sports store and other businesses in the plaza located at 2301 East Fowler Avenue in Tampa.

Authorities say the fire on May 30 was part of the destruction that followed what had been peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

Fifty-seven people were charged for rioting, looting, and other crimes in the months following the riot.

“Law enforcement worked really hard to identify the people responsible for committing these crimes. They’ve done their part. Now, it’s time for us to do our part,” State Attorney Andrew Warren told 10 Tampa Bay at the time. 

This is a developing story. Check back with 10 Tampa Bay for updates.

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