Micah Tillmon, 19, of West Hills faces up to 20 years in prison
By Sam Catanzaro
A teenager accused of setting a Santa Monica sushi restaurant on fire has pleaded not guilty to a federal arson charge.
On May 31, amid looters taking advantage of a demonstration protesting the police killing of George Floyd just blocks away, Santa Monica sushi restaurant Sake House by Hikari on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and 4th Street went up in flames.
An investigation–conducted by the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD), Santa Monica Fire Department (SMFD) and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)–revealed Micah Tillmon, 19 of West Hills as a suspect in the arson case.
ATF agents arrested Tilmon earlier this month on federal arson charges. Tilmon, along with Gisselle Alexis Pinto, 19, and Mynor Pinto, 18, also faces looting charges filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. The federal case, however, will be tried first. Alexis and Mynor Pinto were arrested on suspicion of looting by Santa Monica police.
“These subjects were seen setting fire to the Sake House and looting at REI, Brandy Melville, Vons, Magicopolis, Salon Viva, Wasteland and the Shoe Palace, all located in Santa Monica,” Santa Monica police said.
According to a federal affidavit, security video from the restaurant shows Tillmon removing “a red tube-shaped object from his jacket, which he placed behind the reception desk area of the restaurant before walking away. Within seconds of that action, smoke and fire appeared from the area….”
SMFD investigators determined that the fire was caused by a red object that Tillmon allegedly placed in the restaurant.
Tillmon was identified by detectives with the SMPD, who reviewed numerous security videos and social media posts.
Tillmon was also linked to the fire when investigators uncovered a video showing his white Ford Explorer parking next to the Sake House four minutes before the fire started and then reversing across the street soon after the fire started, according to the affidavit. That 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.
After receiving Tillmon’s not guilty plea, U.S. Magistrate Judge Pedro V. Castillo set a status conference for August 3 and a tentative jury trial date of September 15.
If convicted as charged, Tillmon faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years.