CHARLESTON, S.C., (WJBF) 27-year-old Shabazz Watson of Saint Stephen, was sentenced to five years in federal prison after pleading guilty to arson.

According to the Department of Justice District of South Carolina, the crime was committed May 30 and 31, 2020 during protests  and riots that occurred in Downtown Charleston.

Evidence presented to the court showed that at 10:33 p.m.  on May 30, 2020, during a protest that turned violent following the death of George Floyd, Watson entered a wine bar on King Street. Watson took several paper menus from the counter, set them on fire with a lighter, and placed them under a wooden barstool. 

Watson repeated this process multiple times until the fire grew. There were multiple individuals inside the business, but Watson was solely responsible for starting the fire.

 The report says Watson moved on, and at 11:09 p.m., he entered a retail clothing store on King Street. Watson ran to the back of the store and lit merchandise and clothing on fire. Watson then quickly exited. Before the fires grew out of control, another individual entered the store and used a fire extinguisher to put the fires out. At 11:55 p.m., Watson entered a paint store on Meeting Street. He lit a cardboard display on fire and quickly exited the store.

On May 31, 2020, at 12:55 a.m., Watson entered a retail store on Meeting Street. Watson approached a row of merchandise and lit several items on fire. Watson then walked to the paper towel/toilet paper row and lit several more items on fire. 

The fires grew rapidly and eventually burned the entire building and everything inside, resulting in the business remaining closed for several months during repairs.

United States District Judge Richard Gergel sentenced Watson to 5 years in prison, to be followed by a 3-year term of court-ordered supervision. There is no parole in the federal system. All told, Watson caused $2,415,510.75 in damage to the four businesses. Watson was ordered to pay restitution in that full amount as part of his sentencing.