May 20, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Starting Fire at Santa Monica Sushi Restaurant During May 2020 Civil Unrest

Micah Tillmon of West Hills sentenced to 18 months in federal prison in connection to Sake House arson

By Sam Catanzaro

A man has been sentenced to federal prison for setting a fire at a sushi restaurant during the looting and unrest that erupted in Santa Monica in May of 2020. 

On April 6, a West Hills man was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for starting a fire that caused substantial damage to a Santa Monica restaurant during the civil disturbances that erupted during the spring of 2020 following the death of George Floyd. 

Micah Tillmon, 20, was sentenced by United States District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald. A restitution hearing will be scheduled for a later date.

Tillmon pleaded guilty in September 2021 to one count of possession of an unregistered destructive device.

On May 31, 2020, Tillmon entered Sake House by Hikari, a Japanese restaurant located in downtown Santa Monica while the business was closed because of the civil unrest occurring in the city at that time. While inside the restaurant, Tillmon possessed and used an incendiary device to ignite a fire that rapidly grew, enveloped the entire restaurant space and spread to other areas of the building adjacent to the restaurant.

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,” according to court documents. 

The Santa Monica Fire Department (SMFD) responded to the fire and extinguished the flames using several fire trucks and numerous personnel. 

“Due to safety concerns that accompanied the city’s civil unrest, SMFD prematurely abandoned the scene. As a result, SMFD needed to return to the scene several times throughout the night to extinguish additional flare-ups. The restaurant has since permanently closed,” the Department of Justice said. 

Tillmon was later identified by detectives with the Santa Monica Police Department, 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 court documents.

Tillmon possessed an incendiary device that had not been registered with the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.

“[Tillmon’s] actions on May 31, 2020, were only possible because of a complete breakdown in social order,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “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.”

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