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Man gets probation for role in building fire during 2020 La Mesa riot

A man who took part in burning down a historic commercial structure in downtown La Mesa following a police brutality protest that devolved into rioting was sentenced Thursday to credit for time served and two years of probation.

Daniel Louis Sandoval, 44, was arrested about six months after prosecutors say he and others set fire to the Randall Lamb and Associates Building on Palm Avenue on May 31, 2020.

The structure, which had been designated as historically significant by the La Mesa Historical Society, was one of several buildings, including two banks, that burned to the ground during the unrest that came days after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Sandoval, who has already served about a year in jail, pleaded guilty last year to an arson count for the fire, as well as a vandalism charge in connection with Spa Piel, a nearby business.

Sandoval was also sentenced to a suspended six-year-prison term, meaning he will receive the prison time if he violates the terms of his probation.

Deputy District Attorney Joe McLaughlin said part of the reason for reaching a resolution that includes probation is that Sandoval’s role in then crime “wasn’t as large as some might have thought in the past.”

McLaughlin said Sandoval’s part in the building fire involved putting pages from a book onto an already burning fire, while others who remain at large used Molotov cocktails to set the bulk of the blaze.

The prosecutor also said that mitigating factors of “significant” past trauma and substance abuse issues in Sandoval’s life played a role in recommending probation.

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