Rioters Accused of Throwing Molotov Cocktails at NYPD Vehicles Face Life Sentences
USLorenz Duchamps

Three people accused of being involved in two separate Molotov cocktail attacks on New York City Police Department (NYPD) police vehicles could be sentenced to life if they are found guilty on all charges.

The suspects have been identified as one upstate New York woman, Samantha Shader, 27, from Catskill; and two lawyers from Brooklyn, Colinford Mattis, 31, and Urooj Rahman, 32, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of New York.

“A little more than a week after their arrests, Shader, Mattis, and Rahman have been charged with seven-count indictments in response to their potentially deadly attacks,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney. “Their criminal behavior risked lives, destroyed equipment that exists to serve the community, siphoned response resources, and created a threat to those who had every right to safely assemble and express their opinion.”

All three New York residents face life in prison. Each was charged on counts of the use of explosives, use of explosives to commit a felony, arson, use of a destructive device, arson conspiracy, civil disorder, and creating and possessing a destructive device.

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Urooj Rahman (L) and Colinford Mattis were charged over allegedly throwing Molotov cocktails at an NYPD vehicle. (US Attorney’s Office-Eastern District of New York)
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Samantha Shader, 27, from Catskill, New York in a booking photo. (Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center)

“Those who carry out attacks on NYPD officers or vehicles are not protesters, they are criminals, and they will be treated as such,” U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said.

Nobody was injured in the two incidents that happened during a protest late last month. Shader’s ignited bottle did not go off on May 30 when she allegedly hurled it at an NYPD vehicle, which was occupied by four police officers, shattering two of its windows, according to court filings (pdf).

The explosive Rahman and Mattis allegedly threw on May 29 did ignite and set the unoccupied police vehicle in the Fort Greene neighborhood in Brooklyn ablaze. The suspects then fled the scene in a tan minivan, prosecutors said.

Police officers chased the minivan and arrested Rahman and Mattis, who was reportedly driving the vehicle. Inside, officers said they found several items for the Molotov cocktails, including a lighter, a bottle filled with toilet paper and liquid that was suspected to be gasoline, and additional bottles and toilet paper.

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The remains of a scorched police vehicle lie vandalized during riots in the Fort Greene neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York on May 29, 2020. (Thomas Urbain/AFP via Getty Images)

Shader was also captured in a surveillance video, with officers arresting her shortly after she allegedly threw the explosive.

“Violence, like that alleged here, not only endangers our NYPD officers but threatens the constitutional right of people to peacefully protest. These indictments by our federal partners reflect our joint condemnation of the kind of isolated acts a just society can never tolerate,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot F. Shea said.

The case has drawn widespread attention because both Rahman and Mattis are lawyers.

According to a LinkedIn profile, Mattis is employed by Pryor Cashman LLP, while Rahman has been described as a human rights lawyer.

Rahman was bailed out by another attorney, Washington-based lawyer Salmah Rizvi, who worked in both the State and Defense departments under former President Barack Obama. Mattis was also released on bail.

But both were back in prison last week after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted prosecutors’ request for an emergency stay.

Zachary Stieber and Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.