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Prosecutors charge man with setting fires during Columbia protest

Jeffrey Cotton
Boone County Sheriff's Department
Jeffrey Cotton

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

A Columbia man was charged Wednesday with unlawful use of a weapon after he allegedly set fires in a downtown Columbia intersection during protests.

Jeffrey W. Cotton, 30, was arrested June 1 on suspicion of promoting civil disorder but posted a $4,500 bond and was released from jail.

According to a probable cause statement, several witnesses told police that Cotton set fires in the intersection during protests against police violence spurred by the death of George Floyd.

A witness allegedly told police Cotton was angry after protesters had earlier damaged his vehicle. The investigator on the case viewed video showing Cotton "around several fires" in the intersection and apparently pouring lighter fluid on one blaze, according to the probable cause statement.

Cotton allegedly told protesters he "should have done worse."

Cotton told police that he was angry about the damage to his vehicle when he returned to the intersection. Cotton allegedly said he returned to the intersection with Molotov cocktails in his truck and that he was not the only one starting fires.

Initial arraignment is set for June 25.

Cotton referred a call seeking comment to his lawyer, Jerrold Mueller. Mueller was in court Wednesday and not immediately available.

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.

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