LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — A woman from Lancaster city — one of 11 adults arrested following a protest that escalated to “violence and destruction” in Lancaster after a man wielding a knife was fatally shot by a police officer — was convicted of riot and other charges, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office reported on Thursday.
Jessica M. Lopez, 34, was convicted Wednesday of riot, criminal conspiracy, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, obstruction of highways, and defiant trespass, the district attorney’s office said. A jury returned a guilty verdict for two third-degree felony, one second-degree misdemeanor, and three third-degree misdemeanor offenses after about 30 minutes of deliberation following a three-day trial, the district attorney’s office reported.
Lopez was involved in a protest on the night of Sept. 13 and early morning of Sept. 14 near the intersection of N. Prince and W. Chestnut streets in Lancaster after 27-year-old Ricardo Munoz ran toward police with a knife and was shot and killed by an officer, according to the district attorney’s office. District Attorney Heather Adams determined that the use of deadly force was justified.
First Deputy District Attorney Cody Wade prosecuted the case and said that the First Amendment did not protect speech in this case; that someone can be found guilty of disorderly conduct regardless of whether they threw, damaged, or broke things; and that this was not a peaceful protest.
According to the district attorney’s office: “Wade stated the First Amendment is not a defense to a charge of riot and that there is a time, place, and manner for protection of speech. For example, yelling ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre when there is no danger is not an instance of protected speech.
“Second, that someone can be found guilty of disorderly conduct when two or more people engage in violent, threatening, or tumultuous behavior, not solely if they cause damage.
“Third, Wade again showed video evidence of Lopez speaking through a loudspeaker telling people to take their children home because, ‘This is not their protest.’”
Lopez is free on $250,000 unsecured bail and will be sentenced at a later date, the district attorney’s office reported.
The district attorney’s office said that at least 100 protesters gathered at an access ramp on the west side of the police station. Officers used chemical agents to try to disperse the protesters, and some of the protesters threw the agents back at officers, the district attorney’s office said. The district attorney’s office also said that protesters threw water bottles, glass, rocks, bricks, jugs of liquid, and parts of plastic road barricades at officers at the top of the ramp.
The district attorney’s office said that protesters put a flaming umbrella inside a Lancaster County Detective vehicle and lit a dumpster on fire before dispersing.
The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office says seven other people were either found guilty or pleaded guilty to charges related to the protest, and four other people still have pending cases.