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Defendants sentenced for fire bombing police vehicles


LITTLE ROCK—All five members of a group responsible for the fire bombings of multiple police vehicles will spend time in prison for their crimes. On Thursday, Chief United States District Court Judge D.P. Marshall Jr. sentenced the final four defendants in a case dating back to August and September 2020, when the group, by its own words, resolved to “attack the institution of the American police structure” and destroyed property at five different police stations, which escalated to the use of incendiary weapons. The leader of the group, Mujera Benjamin Lung’aho, received a 5 ½-year sentence for his conduct, which involved the use of Molotov cocktails to burn police cars. The five defendants include:
• Mujera Benjamin Lung’aho, 33, North Little Rock, 66 months incarceration, $86,099.37 restitution.
• Brittany Dawn Jeffrey, 34, Little Rock, 17 months incarceration, $529.30 restitution.
• Emily Nowlin, 30, Little Rock, 18 months incarceration, $35,956.31 restitution.
• Aline A. Espinosa-Villegas, 27, Little Rock, 18 months’ incarceration, $34,356.31 restitution.
• Renea Goddard, 25, Little Rock, 18 months incarceration, $35,956.31 restitution.
Jeffrey had previously been sentenced, while the other four were sentenced Thursday. In addition to the prison sentences, all defendants received terms of supervised release: Lung’aho 36 months; Nowlin, Espinosa-Villegas, and Goddard 24 months; and Jeffrey 18 months. There is no parole in the federal system.
The case is a result of numerous incidents of violence and vandalism that occurred in late August and early September 2020 and involved Lung’aho, Jeffrey, Nowlin, Goddard, and Espinosa. The investigation revealed that on August 25 and into August 26, 2020, Lung’aho, Jeffrey, and others traveled to the Little Rock Police Department (LRPD) Northwest Substation with Molotov cocktails and parked nearby; however, once the group noticed several officers in the area, they left the scene. Later, the group went to Shannon Hills, Arkansas, where a marked police car was parked. Several members of the group broke a window of the car, cut a tire, and stole a toolbox from the vehicle.
The group then traveled to LRPD’s 12th Street Substation. As some of the individuals broke patrol vehicle windows and slashed tires, Lung’aho and another individual threw Molotov cocktails at the LRPD patrol vehicles. According to surveillance video, a Molotov cocktail was lit but burned out as it was thrown over the fence. Two Molotov cocktails used that night were made at Jeffrey’s residence with gasoline, liquor bottles, and bed sheets. On the same day, the group went to the North Little Rock Police Department’s (NLRPD) Levy Substation and damaged several police cars’ tires.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 28, 2020, Lung’aho, Goddard, Nowlin, and Espinosa traveled to the Arkansas State Police (ASP) Headquarters with Molotov cocktails. Lung’aho cut a section of a chain-link fence, and he and the others entered the property through the hole in the fence and vandalized multiple ASP vehicles, slashing 33 tires. Espinosa threw a Molotov cocktail, but it did not explode. Lung’aho threw a Molotov cocktail at a 2020 Chevrolet Tahoe patrol unit, and the device exploded. The explosion caused the vehicle to catch fire, resulting in the complete destruction of the vehicle.
On Sept. 3, 2020, Lung’aho and others traveled to the Rose City Police Station in North Little Rock and threw a Molotov cocktail at a NLRPD police vehicle, destroying the vehicle. The Molotov cocktail was made from a liquor bottle and bed sheets, the same materials used in the attempted destruction of a patrol car on August 26, 2020. The fire was observed by officers at 3:20 a.m. and Lung’aho’s phone contained an image of the fire taken at approximately 3:10 a.m.
“There is no justification for violent acts targeting our law enforcement community. The use of Molotov cocktails to destroy law enforcement property is not a form of legitimate protest; rather, it is a troubling escalation of gratuitous violence that seeks to stoke embers of anarchy in our community, and it will not be tolerated in the Eastern District of Arkansas,” said United States Attorney Jonathan D. Ross. “The Constitution protects our rights to peacefully assemble. But make no mistake, when you use violence to advance your agenda, the Department of Justice will make every effort to put you in prison. Anyone engaging in such criminal activity will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Lung’aho was originally charged in a complaint on Sept. 14, 2020, and then indicted on Oct. 6, 2020, on charges alleging conspiracy to commit arson and arson. On Feb. 3, 2021, a federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment adding the other four defendants, and adding numerous charges including conspiracy to commit arson, arson, and possession of unregistered destructive devices.
Lung’aho pleaded guilty on Aug. 23, 2023, to arson, related to the firebombing of the NLRPD police car on Sept. 3, 2020. On May 18, 2022, Jeffrey pleaded guilty to a superseding information charging her with conspiracy to possess an unregistered destructive device, a Molotov cocktail, and she was sentenced on Dec.12, 2022. On Sept. 23, 2021, Espinosa-Villegas pleaded guilty to possession of an unregistered destructive device, a Molotov cocktail. Nowlin pleaded guilty to possession of an unregistered destructive device, a Molotov cocktail, on Sept. 26, 2022. Goddard pleaded guilty on Sept. 26, 2022, to a superseding information charging her with conspiracy to possess an unregistered destructive device, a Molotov cocktail.
“This investigation is an example of ATF working with law enforcement partners and the community to hold persons accountable that choose to engage in violent crime that threatens the safety of our shared community,” said ATF New Orleans Field Division Special Agent in Charge Joshua Jackson. “ATF will remain engaged with the law enforcement team and the public to best serve and protect our communities.”
The investigation was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, North Little Rock Police Department, Little Rock Police Department, Arkansas State Police, and Shannon Hills Police Department.