Sam Resto is an Elmhurst, Queens, man who faces federal charges of setting an NYPD van ablaze in Manhattan last month.
Federal prosecutors said that NYPD officers were conducting surveillance on Resto, who works in construction, on the night of July 28, when they saw him fill a red jerry can with gasoline in Queens, then travel to Manhattan and use it to set a parked police van on fire.
Police allege that they found disturbing evidence in Resto’s home after his arrest and are asking that he be held without bail. FBI Assistant Director in Charge William Sweeney said Resto put “first responders and private citizens” at risk. Resto could face up to 20 years if convicted on the federal arson charges.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The NYPD Has Resto Under Surveillance on July 28 When They Watched Him Fill a Jerry Can With Gasoline, Then Head to Manhattan, Prosecutors Say
According to the criminal complaint, the NYPD had Resto under surveillance on July 28, when they watched him go to a gas station in Elmhurst and fill up a red jerry can with gasoline using the self-service pump, then bring it back to his apartment.
Officers said he was wearing a dark Adidas hat, a dark long-sleeve top, dark jeans, dark Nike sneakers and gloves with the fingers cut off.
He stayed home until 11:47 p.m., when he headed to Manhattan via a ride share, wearing the same clothes, plus a backpack, according to police.
2. Surveillance Footage Shows Someone in a Guy Fawkes Mask Setting Fire to the NYPD Van
Close to 4 a.m. on July 29, surveillance video captured someone wearing the same clothes police observed Resto wearing earlier, plus a Guy Fawkes mask, walked up to an NYPD van parked at the corner of Columbus Avenue and West 83rd Street. Prosecutors claim the man in the video is Resto.
The man was seen breaking out the passenger-side window of the van then pouring gasoline inside and lighting it on fire, before heading east on West 83rd toward Central Park, prosecutors said.
Officers later found a backpack in the park near where they said they saw Resto. In the backpack was an Adidas hat, gloves with the fingers cut off, a Guy Fawkes mask, a hammer, lighter and red jerry can. Officers said the can smelled of gasoline.
Prosecutors said police pulled fingerprints from the jerry can and matched them to Resto
3. Police Found a Message Scrawled on the Wall of Resto’s Apartment, Reading, ‘Too Late,’ & Claim He Was Previously Arrested During Protests & for Swinging a Chain at Someone
According to a detention memo, Resto was arrested by federal agents at his workplace, and he told them he “had a feeling” that they would be coming for him and was getting ready to flee.
He also told the agents that when they went to his apartment they would find a message on the walls. In photographs of Resto’s apartment, the words “Too late” can be seen painted on the walls, along with an emoji of some kind.
According to the NYPD, Resto was arrested two other times recently: On July 10 for “allegedly swinging a chain” at someone during a parking dispute and on July 15 during an anti-police brutality protest on the Brooklyn Bridge.
4. Prosecutors Say Resto Is a Flight Risk & Asked Him to be Held Without Bail on Friday
Resto was to have his first court appearance conducted by telephone on Friday, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said.
Prosecutors asked that Resto be held without bail pending his trial, claiming he is a flight risk and danger to the community. They said that the actions they alleged were “extraordinarily dangerous to the community” and said that Resto’s police record showed he was becoming increasingly “unhinged.”
“Resto presents a danger to the community and a risk of flight that no set of release conditions can mitigate,” prosecutors wrote.
5. The NYPD Claims More Than 300 of Their Vehicles Have Been Vandalized Since George Floyd’s Killing
The department claimed the costs of repairs neared $1 million. There have been several instances of people arrested and charged with setting fire to police vehicles, in some cases facing federal charges, Heavy reported.
The New York Times, meanwhile put together a multimedia presentation showing NYPD officers using violence in multiple instances during the anti-racist protests that continue in the city.
“In instance after instance, the police are seen using force on people who do not appear to be resisting arrest or posing an immediate threat to anyone,” the Times staff wrote.
Commissioner Dermot Shea said on June 22, “I think the officers used an incredible amount of restraint in terms of allowing people to vent,” the Times reported.
Attorney information for Resto was not immediately available.