Pennsylvania man allegedly left Molotov cocktails in busy plaza amid protests

Authorities say Matthew Michanowicz, 52, left a backpack filled with containers of ignitable liquid at PNC Plaza in Pittsburgh.

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By Tim Stelloh

A Pennsylvania man was arrested after allegedly leaving a backpack full of Molotov cocktails at a busy downtown plaza in Pittsburgh amid protests over the killing of George Floyd, authorities said Saturday.

Matthew Michanowicz, 52, faces federal charges of illegal possession of a destructive device, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania said.

Michanowicz, who was allegedly captured on surveillance footage placing the backpack under trees at PNC Plaza, told investigators that he’d ridden his bike to the area to observe the aftermath of recent protests, court documents say.

The documents say that Michanowicz denied having the backpack or any incendiary devices. Authorities later found 10 more camouflage backpacks in Michanowicz’s garage, along with equipment like fuses, latex gloves, spray foam insulation and ignitable liquid, the documents say.

The devices found in the backpack at PNC Plaza were described as spent “vapor grenades” filled with ignitable liquid and wicks that were held in place with foam insulation.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Michanowicz has a lawyer. Court records didn’t list one.

The charges were filed as widespread demonstrations continue over the death of George Floyd in police custody. The often peaceful protests against police violence and systemic racism that have gripped cities across the country been sometimes been accompanied by property destruction and violence, including what authorities have described as the use of Molotov cocktails against police.

In Las Vegas, three men believed to be part of the far-right “Boogaloo” movement were also arrested on explosives and terrorism charges after authorities said they planned to allegedly “hijack” peaceful protests “for their own radical agendas.”