Man who burned Kenosha furniture store during 2020 riots gets 3 1/3 years in prison

B & L Office Furniture after it was ignited in an arson Aug. 24, 2020

B & L Office Furniture after it was ignited in an arson Aug. 24, 2020

A man will serve 3⅓ years in prison for starting a fire that destroyed a family-run furniture store in Kenosha during unrest the day after Jacob Blake was shot.

Devon Vaughn, 23, of Racine, pleaded guilty in March to conspiring to commit arson.

Several buildings were set ablaze during rioting in 2020 that erupted in Kenosha following the police shooting of Blake, a Black man. Federal and local investigators were not able to file charges immediately but later released surveillance photos of suspects and offered rewards for information about the fires.

Vaughn also will be subject to two years of supervised release and have to pay more than $1.7 million in restitution after he serves his prison time.

Prosecutors recommended Vaughn be sentenced for five years, citing the nature of the offense and his history of   drug use.

Vaughn’s defense argued against the government’s recommendation and called for a sentence of no more than 2½ years.

A white police officer shot Blake in the back during a response to a domestic dispute on Aug. 23, 2020. Video of the shooting, which left Blake paralyzed, went viral and within hours demonstrations and protests grew into rioting, arson and violence in Kenosha.

RELATED: Small Kenosha businesses, Department of Corrections building burned to the ground, countless others vandalized

RELATED: ‘We’re blessed’: Spring brings a sense of renewal to Kenosha as it emerges from the violent protests of last summer

On Aug. 24, 2020, Vaughn missed work to protest the shooting.

Vaughn had been drinking and had taken Xanax at the protest. He went into a local business, B&L Office Furniture, on 60th Street, with two people.

Vaughn placed burning papers onto a chair, and his offense lasted about 15 seconds, according to the defense sentencing memo.

“This act is entirely out of his character,” said his attorney, Joshua Uller.

A defense sentencing memo said Vaughn grew up in a small town in Ohio and was the only Black player on his high school football team. Vaughn graduated from high school in 2017 and got a job.

The government’s sentencing memo said Vaughn had a limited criminal history.

B & L Office Furniture in Kenosha before the August 2020 riots

B & L Office Furniture in Kenosha before the August 2020 riots

U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller noted the fire caused nearly $2 million in damage and deeply affected the family of Linda Carpenter, who started the business with her husband more than 40 years ago.

Carpenter said at the hearing her family feared for their lives in the weeks following the fire.

B&L Office Furniture has since moved to 7600 75th St., about 15 minutes west of the original location.

Two nights later, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot two protesters and wounded a third. Rittenhouse claimed he fired in self-defense and a Kenosha County jury acquitted him of all charges in November.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Man gets 3 years for arson during the 2020 Kenosha riot


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