Richmond

Suspect Pleads Guilty to Having Firearms at Lee Statue Clash in Richmond

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A man discovered with an assault rifle, a handgun and body armor following a confrontation with protestors at the Robert E. Lee statue in Virginia’s capital has been charged with a federal firearms violation.

Matthew Lee Frezza, 37, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Richmond on Tuesday to possessing a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a statement.

Prosecutors said Richmond Police officers spotted “a caravan” of three trucks driving recklessly near the Robert E. Lee Monument on June 12 and pulled one of the trucks over. Officers saw Frezza in the front passenger seat of the truck, as well as two other occupants who were all armed with guns, including assault rifles.

Police found a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol, a homemade assault-style rifle and eight clips or magazines of ammunition on Frezza, according to court documents.

Richmond Police have previously said they saw several pickup trucks approach a group that had dismounted their bicycles in the traffic lanes, and "words were exchanged between the individuals and the drivers of the pickup trucks,” according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

One of the trucks ran over a bicycle while driving off, but it was unclear whether anyone was injured, the newspaper said.

The Lee statue, along with other Confederate memorials along Monument Avenue and throughout the city, were rallying points and sites of frequent clashes with police during this summer's demonstrations against racial injustice.

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Frezza was set to be sentenced Dec. 10.

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