(Reuters) - A federal judge sentenced a St. Louis County man to five years in prison for trying to burn down a store in Ferguson, Missouri, during riots after a grand jury declined to charge a white officer who had killed an unarmed black 18-year-old.
Antonio Whiteside, 27, who had pleaded guilty in April to one count of attempted arson at the Ferguson Supermarket, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John Ross, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said in a statement.
Dozens of businesses were damaged or ruined last year during the rioting that broke out after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb that became the touchstone for a national movement against racial profiling and police use of lethal force.
Whiteside previously admitted to using a lighter and an accelerant to start a fire inside the Ferguson Supermarket on Nov. 24, during the civil unrest that followed the announcement from St. Louis County prosecutors that a grand jury had decided not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson.
A federal investigation found that Wilson was justified in shooting Brown in a struggle over the officer’s gun.
Whiteside does not have a criminal record except for a minor marijuana charge when he was a college student, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has reported.
The market where Whiteside set the fire was in the hard-hit West Florissant Street area of Ferguson that is still struggling to recover from the unrest. Some businesses have been bulldozed and some shut down. Others have used loans and grants to stay open after the protests but have had trouble drawing shoppers to the area.
Reporting by Fiona Ortiz