Prosecutor: Grand Rapids rioters ‘took advantage of situation’

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There are now 13 adults and one 15-year-old charged in connection to the May 30 and 31 riot in downtown Grand Rapids, which saw businesses and government buildings damaged and police vehicles destroyed.

Arraigned Tuesday, Clare Anwyn Newhall, formerly of Byron Center, was charged with rioting and destruction of property at 1 N. Division Avenue, the home of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

An undated booking photo of Clare Newhall.
An undated booking photo of Clare Newhall.

In attempting to get her a personal recognizance bond, her attorney said she is 21 years old, has no prior criminal record, has her GED and has also attended a couple of semesters of junior college, pursuing her interest in psychology. Her attorney also said she is active at the Park Church, where she assists them with feeding the homeless.

The judge set her bond at $10,000.

Another defendant, 18-year-old Omar Suarez-Landero, is accused of being part of the crew that broke into and looted the Sundance Grill and Bar, according to the prosecution.

“The defendant does not have extensive criminal history,” Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Lawrence Boivin told a judge Tuesday. “I don’t think he is a violent threat to individuals in our society.”

Because Suarez-Landero is in jail and his next hearing is not until July 25, he was given a personal recognizance bond.

They join 11 other adults and a juvenile who have been charged. The defendants range in age from 15 to 38. They are white, Black and Hispanic and are all from West Michigan, including Grandville, Wyoming, Kentwood and Cedar Springs.

Booking photos of the suspects facing charges in connection to the riot in downtown Grand Rapids on May 30 and May 31.

What they don’t appear to be at this point is part of any organized group.

“We’ve heard the same rumors, whether it be ‘antifa’ or any other outside groups that are trying to organize,” Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker told News 8 Tuesday. “There’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that any of them are organized, driven, had anything to do with any of these outside groups.”

The background of the defendants, their social media and their known activities suggest these are crimes of opportunity rather than of ideology or conscience.

“They’re just people downtown taking advantage of the situation more than anything else. They’re not driven by any groups or anything like that,” Becker said. “It was wherever they were and whatever was going on, people jumped in.”

The people charged so far were those that seemed not at all shy about showing their faces or even recording their own acts and putting them on social media.

“It’s going to be hard to identify moving forward, so I think it’s going to be much more of a long, hard slog to see if we get any more cases after this,” Becker said.

Becker said there are still numerous investigations going on and the prosecutions will continue.

“There’s a lot of people who were impacted and a lot of businesses that were impacted, so we’re gonna do everything we can to hold as many people as we can accountable,” Becker said.