Man gets 15 years in ATM blast during civil unrest

ATM blast
Philadelphia Police respond to civil unrest in Philadelphia in May 2020.
Jack Tomczuk

A man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison in one of dozens of explosions of automated teller machines in Philadelphia during civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis two years ago.

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that 26-year-old David Elmakayes of Philadelphia was sentenced for using an explosive device to damage an ATM and for illegal possession of a firearm.

Authorities said the defendant was carrying three additional explosive devices and other weapons when he was arrested shortly after a cash machine in North Philadelphia was damaged on the night of June 3, 2020.

Philadelphia police said at the time that 50 cash machines were hit by explosives in the same week amid civil unrest across the nation after Floyd died in Minneapolis in May 2020 after a police officer pressed his knee into his neck as he pleaded for air.

U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said Tuesday the defendant “took advantage of a volatile situation” and could have injured many people, and she vowed to “aggressively prosecute” similar crimes. Former U.S. Attorney William McSwain said when the charges were filed that blowing up an ATM and illegal weapons possession weren’t “acts of protest against perceived injustice.”

In Floyd’s killing, a former Minneapolis officer was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison on murder and manslaughter convictions and also pleaded guilty to a federal count of violating Floyd’s rights. Three other officers were convicted of federal civil rights violations; one has pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge and two await trial.