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Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Starting Fire During Santa Monica Riots

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By Jorge Casuso

April 6, 2022 -- A 20-year-old West Hills man was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison Wednesday for setting fire to a Sushi restaurant in Downtown Santa Monica during the 2020 riots.

Micah Tillmon, 20, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald after pleading guilty last September to one count of possession of an unregistered destructive device.

Tillmon used the device to start the fire that tore though Sake House by Hikari at 4th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard during the May 31, 2020 riots that saw widespread looting and vandalism, especially Downtown.

Tillmon’s actions, prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum, "were only possible because of a complete breakdown in social order.

“Riots like the ones that convulsed this district in the summer of 2020 are a stark reminder of the thin line that separates state control and anarchy,” prosecutors wrote.

The Santa Monica Fire Department (SMFD) extinguished the flames using several fire trucks and numerous personnel but "prematurely abandoned the scene" due to safety concerns, federal officials said.

"As a result, SMFD needed to return to the scene several times throughout the night to extinguish additional flare-ups," officials said. The restaurant has since permanently closed.

Tillmon was identified by Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) detectives, who reviewed numerous security videos and social media posts.

Investigators also uncovered a video showing Tillmon's white Ford Explorer parking next to the Sake House four minutes before the fire started, then reversing across the street soon after the fire started, according to the affidavit.

The same video allegedly shows the Explorer parking about 500 feet away from the Sake House, and Tillmon exiting the vehicle and looting a nearby business, according to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint.

The Sake House was one of ten Santa Monica businesses that sustained fire or smoke damage during the looting and vandalism spree that swept through Downtown Santa Monica virtually unchecked on May 21, 2020.

Damage assessments found that 225 Santa Monica businesses had general damage, such as visible broken windows and doors, and 76 had "visible evidence of looting."

There was graffiti damage on 121 buildings and 48 had other "vandalization."

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