Social media influencer Jake Paul was charged with two criminal misdemeanors this week in Scottsdale City Court after police determined he was present at Fashion Square Mall while it was being looted on May 30.
Paul, who has more than 20 million subscribers on YouTube, received criticism from many fans after a video posted on Instagram showed him in the mall during the riot and crime spree that marred the otherwise peaceful George Floyd protests and led to a weeklong 8 p.m.-to-5 a.m. state curfew.
"Following the riots and looting ... the Scottsdale Police Department received hundreds of tips and videos identifying social media influencer, Jake Joseph Paul (23), as a participant in the riot," Officer Kevin Watts, spokesperson for the department, said in a statement on Thursday. "Our investigation has revealed that Paul was present after the protest was declared an unlawful assembly and the rioters were ordered to leave the area by the police. Paul also unlawfully entered and remained inside of the mall when it was closed. As a result, Paul has been charged with Criminal Trespass and Unlawful Assembly (both misdemeanor charges)."
Online court info shows Paul has a criminal division arraignment set for July 8 at 8:30 a.m. in city court.
Paul gave his side of the story in an eight-minute video he posted on his YouTube channel on Wednesday, which already has racked up more than 1 million views, and which he says he plans to soon delete.
In the video, Paul spends much of his time talking about the issues behind the protests. He repeats a previous denial that neither he nor his entourage participated in any property damage or looting. He claims that while it was a poor decision to go inside the mall as it was being ransacked, he doesn't regret going inside to document the situation, which he pointed out was tied to the important message of anti-police brutality protesters. One somewhat garbled message to critics also seems to have been aimed at Scottsdale prosecutors: "...If people want to accuse me of things that they know I'm not doing because my name is Jake Paul, then so be it."
Paul shares footage he or his friends took at the scene on May 30. After coming to Arizona to document the protests and hearing about a gathering at the mall, Paul and his team first saw some of the destruction before they saw any demonstrators. Following a trail of broken glass, they eventually came upon the heart of the action, with throngs of protesters on one side and a line of riot police on the other. Police shot "smoke bombs" at the crowd, making Paul angry.
"Here I am, just a person walking down the street and all of a sudden I'm getting tear gas shot at me?" he says in the video. "This must be a small fraction of what people are facing on a day-to-day basis with police."
In shock and not knowing "what the fuck to do," but wanting to document everything, Paul watched as protesters threw the smoke bombs and rocks at police. He watched as "dozens" of looters ran out of the Apple store with stolen items. The team walked further, to where the P.F. Chang's restaurant was being vandalized and looted. Someone handed him a bottle of vodka, which he put down, he says.
They kept walking away from the police, to where he saw "hundreds" of people running into the mall or running out with stolen goods.
"In hindsight, everything's 20-20 and we shouldn't have been anywhere near what was going," he says, adding that he wanted to continue to document the historic action. "Vandalizing and looting isn't spreading the proper message."
Besides charging Paul, police have arrested 20 people so far who are also facing charges in connection with the mall chaos of May 30.
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"While some may have indeed come to join what they believed would be a peaceful protest, what occurred was neither peaceful, nor a protest," police said in a statement earlier this week.
Law officers from Chandler, the state Department of Public Safety, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, Mesa, Scottsdale, and Tempe pitched in to quell the disturbance. But "life safety" was the priority, so officers "were not sent in to force a violent clash with criminal antagonists." Only 12 people were arrested in the immediate aftermath.
At least one assault was reported during the incident, and the looters caused "millions of dollars" in damages and theft, police said.
On Wednesday, Scottsdale police released details about eight other people arrested on suspicion of crimes related to the riot. Two of them, 19-year-old Sky Black and 18-year-old Shemar Cooper, both from the Phoenix metro area, "used a Scottsdale Vacation rental property as a staging location for their criminal activity" at the mall, and were arrested with an estimated $11,000 in stolen property. Another woman, 30-year-old Maurianna Griffin, was caught in possession of $28,000 worth of designer bags and sunglasses.