EL CAJON (CNS) – A man suspected of setting fire to a historic commercial structure in downtown La Mesa following a police brutality protest that devolved into rioting last spring pleaded not guilty Monday to felony charges of arson and vandalism.
Daniel Louis Sandoval, 43, of Campo, was arrested last week near his home on suspicion of igniting the May 31 blaze that destroyed the Randall Lamb and Associates Building on Palm Avenue.
The structure, which had been designated as historically significant by the La Mesa Historical Society, was one of several buildings, including two banks, burned to the ground during the unrest.
In addition to the Randall Lamb building fire, Sandoval is charged with felony vandalism at Spa Piel, another Palm Avenue business.
The protest was sparked by the Memorial Day in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the arrest of another Black man, Amaurie Johnson, in La Mesa a few days later.
The demonstration began with protesters marching onto Interstate 8 in the afternoon, stopping traffic, before moving on to La Mesa police headquarters.
Though the protest began peacefully, confrontations began breaking out at nightfall, with some demonstrators throwing things and officers firing beanbag rounds and tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Sandoval remains in custody in lieu of $500,000 bail. His next court date is a Dec. 29 readiness conference.