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Ferguson protester who set fire at Berkeley QuikTrip sentenced to 8 years in prison

Ferguson protester who set fire at Berkeley QuikTrip sentenced to 8 years in prison

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY • A man who was a frequent participant in protests in Ferguson last year was sentenced Thursday to eight years in prison for starting a fire at a QuikTrip in Berkeley after an officer-involved shooting there.

Joshua Williams, 19, was sentenced by St. Louis County Circuit Judge John D. Warner Jr. in a courtroom packed with Williams’ supporters. Prosecutors had sought a 15-year sentence, while Williams’ attorney asked for a suspended or lesser sentence.

Williams started a fire at a QuikTrip in Berkeley during protests after the death of Antonio Martin, 18, who was fatally shot Dec. 23 by a Berkeley police officer at a Mobil gas station across the street from the QuikTrip in the 6800 block of North Hanley Road.

Police said Williams entered the QuikTrip shortly after looters shattered its glass doors early on Dec. 24. Police say he took items from the store and used lighter fluid to set a fire outside the convenience store. Store surveillance and several media outlets captured video of Williams, police said.

The fire was put out before extensive damage was done.

Williams was often seen at Ferguson protests last year. In October, he was photographed walking arm in arm with author and activist Cornel West toward the St. Louis University campus, where protesters staged a sit-in. He confronted St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson during a Ferguson Commission meeting last year. He was also arrested at least twice during Ferguson-related protests for unlawful assembly and refusal to disperse.

Williams, of north St. Louis County, pleaded guilty to arson, burglary and stealing last month in St. Louis County Circuit Court.

While the judge took a break to review information in another room Thursday, supporters of Williams sang “Justice for Josh Williams, justice for all of us.”

There was an outburst when Warner returned and announced the eight-year sentence for arson. Williams was also sentenced on the burglary and stealing charges, which will run concurrently with the arson sentence.

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Denise Hollinshed is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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