Get our free mobile app

St.  Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - A Rochester man has pleaded guilty to a federal arson charge connected to the violence that occurred on the streets of Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd.

26-year-old Montez Lee was accused of breaking into a Minneapolis pawn shop on May 28th of last year and setting the building on fire. According to his plea agreement, security camera video recordings show Lee pouring a fire accelerant around the Max It Pawn Shop and then lighting the flammable liquid. The federal criminal complaint against Lee also included a cell phone video recorded in front of the business that showed the Rochester man saying "(expletive} this place. We're going to burn this (expletive) down."

The resulting fire destroyed the building and took the life of a Burnsville man. It remains unclear whether Lee will face additional charges in state court involving the death of 30-year-old Oscar Stewart. His body was found in the rubble of the pawnshop last July and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner later ruled his death was a homicide. An autopsy determined his death was the result of "probable inhalation of products of combustion and thermal injury from an intentional building fire."

News Update: Quick Response Gives Faribault Drowning Victim ‘Fighting Chance’

Timeline: George Floyd's Death, Protests, Riots, Arrests, Chauvin Trial

It was late afternoon on Memorial Day, 2020 and many Minnesotans had observed the normally active weekend hunkered down because of the growing pandemic.

George Floyd drove to a grocery store in Minneapolis and bought some cigarettes. He was accused by employees of making the purchase with a counterfeit $20 bill and police were called. Floyd was still there in his vehicle when two officers arrived. About 10 minutes later, Chauvin and another officer showed up and the situation began to escalate. Chauvin began kneeling on Floyd's neck as he was facedown on the street. Despite repeated pleas from Floyd and a growing crowd of bystanders to remove his knee, Chauvin continued as if frozen in position with no facial expression. 

After more than 8 minutes, Chauvin finally stood up and Floyd had become unresponsive. An ambulance was called and a short while later, it was reported Floyd was dead.

A video of the incident slowly spread on social media around the state, the country and the world. Viewers literally watched a man slowly die, repeating "I can't breathe." 

The now historic response began the following day.