MIAMI – The man suspected of burning a City of Miami police patrol car on May 30 has been identified and located, police say.
The FBI released images of a suspect on Monday, offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
City of Miami police on Tuesday said that Giovanni Franchesko Fernandez, 38, is the man who was wanted, and that he had been taken to a local hospital after an unrelated medical episode.
“A citizen contacted law enforcement after recognizing Mr. Fernandez, whose photograph had been broadcast through numerous media outlets, and provided law enforcement with Mr. Fernandez’s whereabouts,” police said. “Upon his release from the hospital, Mr. Fernandez will be facing state charges for arson, criminal mischief, and inciting a riot, along with other federal charges.”
According to the FBI, the police car was under Interstate 95 on the corner of NW 3rd Avenue and NW 4th Street in downtown Miami when it was set on fire on the first Saturday of Miami protests after the death of George Floyd.
Video captured by a Local 10 News crew covering those protests appears to show the man police identified as Fernandez circling the car under I-95 near Miami police headquarters just before that fire started.
Nobody was injured by the blaze.
“The FBI holds sacred the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their First Amendment freedoms. Unfortunately, we are seeing individuals who are taking advantage of these peaceful assemblies to pursue violence and in doing so are threatening the rights and safety of all citizens,” George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami said in a statement.
Local 10 News also obtained records showing that Fernandez was arrested in 2018 and charged with battery on a law enforcement officer.
The FBI was investigating the arson along with the City of Miami Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Police say the investigation is ongoing and that more charges are possible.
“Although we support the right to free speech and the right to assemble, we will not tolerate flagrant violations of the law,” City of Miami Chief of Police Jorge Colina said in a statement. “If someone decides that they want to destroy property and or harm our residents, they will be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Miami police ask that anyone who has information about suspects who vandalized businesses or vehicles during the unrest call them at 305-579-6111. Those who wish to remain anonymous can contact Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-8477, visit crimestoppersmiami.com and select “Give a Tip” or Send a text message to 274637.