By Miriam Raftery
Photo by Jake Rose: Randall Lamb building in flames
January 29, 2022 (La Mesa) – Daniel Louis Sandoval, 44, of Campo has been sentenced for his role in the burning down of the historic Randall Lamb building in La Mesa shortly after midnight on May 31, 2020 during civil unrest.
According to the prosecution, Sandoval pulled pages from a book and tossed them onto a fire ignited by others, who used Molotov cocktails to set the blaze. They remain at large.
Sandoval pleaded guilty last year to arson and vandalism at Spa Piel. He had already spent nearly a year in jail and received probation as well as a six-year suspended sentence, meaning if he violates terms of probation, he will be imprisoned for that time period.
According to Deputy District Attorney Joe McLaughlin, mitigating factors included past trauma and substance abuse issues; Sandoval is undergoing drug rehabilitation.
Three buildings burned to the ground during the riot, which followed an earlier racial justice protest as part of national demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd, a black suspect, by a white police officer in Minneapolis later found guilty of murder.
Chase Bank and Union bank in downtown La Mesa were also destroyed by fires during the riot. Ricky Bernard Cooper pleaded guilty in the Chase Bank arson and received a two-year probation, though a case against another suspect remains pending.
Following Cooper’s probation sentence, La Mesa City Councilwoman Laura Lothian called the sentence “reckless leniency.” She added, “Hundreds of La Mesans expressed to me their dismay and disquiet at this sentence that can't even be called a slap on the wrist. I hope this lapse in responsible judgment from the DA's office does not make La Mesa vulnerable to future attacks."
No arrests have yet been made for the arson at Union Bank.
One protester, Zachary Alexander Karas, was convicted last summer of bringing Molotov cocktails to the protest; he was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison – ironically a longer sentence than those charged with actual arson received.