PROVIDENCE – A federal grand jury today returned a one-count indictment charging a Providence man with arson, alleging that he intentionally set a Providence Police Department cruiser on fire during a riot in downtown Providence during the early morning hours of June 2, 2020.
It is alleged that Luis Joel Sierra, 36, leaned inside a Providence Police cruiser to ignite a fire. The cruiser was quickly engulfed in flames and destroyed.
According to court documents, the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the torching of the police vehicle was bolstered by video from surveillance cameras, cell phones, and social media, and from information provided via email to law enforcement tip lines, including the Boston FBI tip line.
Additionally, as alleged in court documents, Sierra told another that he was one of the individuals responsible for the arson of the Providence Police Department vehicle by applying a flammable liquid to the interior of the vehicle and then using a lighter to ignite the fire. Law enforcement was also provided with several videos allegedly taken on Snapchat off Sierra’s phone and a recorded conversation with Sierra during which Sierra allegedly detailed his actions igniting the fire.
On August 14, 2020, members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force executed a court-authorized search of Sierra’s residence and seized matching clothing allegedly worn by Sierra on the evening of June 1, 2020 and early morning of June 2, 2020, including a black Caterpillar jacket; white Adidas sweatpants; a camouflage mask; two black gloves, one with a logo on the back of the hand; and two one-handed windshield-style lighters.
A federal grand jury today returned an indictment charging Sierra with malicious attempt to damage or destroy a vehicle, in whole and in part owned and possessed by the Providence Police Department, an organization receiving Federal financial assistance, by means of fire, thereby causing a substantial risk of injury to any person, including any public safety officer performing duties (arson), announced United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division Joseph R. Bonavolonta, and Providence Police Chief Colonel Hugh T. Clements, Jr.
A federal indictment is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
If convicted as charged, Sierra faces statutory penalties of 7- 40 years imprisonment, up to five years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul F. Daly, Jr.
United States Attorney Aaron Weisman, FBI Boston Division Special Agent in Charge Joseph R. Bonavolonta, and Providence Police Chief Colonel Hugh T. Clements, Jr., thank the Rhode Island Fusion Center, Rhode Island State Police, and Cranston Police Department for their assistance in this investigation.