Charges dropped against homeless man for NYPD cruiser arson

June 16, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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A homeless man living in Williamsburg was arrested and charged with arson in federal court last Thursday on charges that he torched an NYPD cruiser, but charges were officially dropped on Sunday.

The complaint against the defendant was dismissed “at the request of the government pursuant to information developed over the weekend from the ongoing investigation,” according to a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

A criminal complaint written by Eric Dornbusch, a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, charged 32-year-old Michael Rodriguez with allegedly setting an NYPD cruiser on fire the night of June 2, 2020. The incident occurred on Devoe Street between Judge and Olive streets at approximately 4:30 a.m.

Rodriguez had faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He was released from custody after charges were dropped.

The criminal complaint explained that Rodriguez was initially identified from a video released by cops by a witness eight days following the incident. The witness misidentified the person in the video, who was wearing a face mask at approximately 4:30 a.m., as “Justin.” When police eventually arrested Rodriguez, he was living three blocks away from where the witness claimed “Justin” was living.

Nobody was injured during the incident, although law enforcement officials claim that a second car was damaged during the car fire.

U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue, John DeVito from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Daniel Nigro, commissioner of the FDNY, and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea each issued statements in conjunction with the arrest on June 11. None of them released a statement on Sunday when Rodriguez was officially released as an investigation is ongoing.

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