Branden Wolfe had hoped for a lighter sentence. Federal authorities accused him of conspiracy to commit arson in the burning of a police building in the days following the death of George Floyd.
Authorities alleged he “pushed a barrel into a fire located in the entrance of the third precinct headquarters”, fuelling the fire. A judge gave him a prison sentence of 41 months for the crime.
Wolfe said he did not “conspire” to commit arson with four others charged when he rolled a wooden barrel into the burning precinct, though he said he does regret his actions that evening. Undiagnosed mental health issues and tumultuous personal life – including years of homelessness – influenced his actions, he said.
He had hoped these circumstances would persuade the judge to issue a lighter sentence, even supervised release, after he pleaded guilty in January.
Acting US Attorney Anders Folk said in a statement that “Wolfe furthered the destruction” in Minneapolis “last summer by literally adding fuel to the fire”.
“In addition to the arson, Mr. Wolfe stole body armor, weapons, and ammunition belonging to the Minneapolis Police Department,” Folk continued. “This sentence underscores the seriousness of Mr. Wolfe’s actions and holds him to account.”
Wolfe said he could not comment on the allegations of theft, as the case is ongoing, but said he wanted to set the record straight on his mental state, which motivated his actions, and his views on violent protests when he spoke to Al Jazeera before the May 4 sentencing.
“I’ve seen articles accusing me of being part of the Boogaloo Bois. I’ve seen YouTube videos and posts on Instagram saying I’m part of the KKK or I’m a white supremacist and my goal was to frame Black Lives Matter as a collective for the arson of the precinct,” Wolfe said.
“None of that is true.”
‘George Floyd was an awesome man’
Floyd died while former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on the Black man’s back for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020, sparking a global protest movement against police brutality and racism.
A jury found Chauvin guilty of unintentional murder and manslaughter on April 20.
Wolfe had tumultuous adulthood leading to the precinct’s burning on May 28, according to court documents and Wolfe’s telling of his life story.
“I was homeless,” Wolfe said. He left his home in Florida at the age of 18, chasing a “mutually toxic and unstable relationship between two immature young people”, documents say.
Wolfe was on the move for several years, living in cars, homeless shelters and elsewhere in Mississippi, North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.