Complaint: 2 charged with arson during civil unrest in downtown Madison

Surveillance image view of a man and woman, suspects in an arson
Two suspects outside of the YWCA (Image via criminal complaint)

MADISON, Wis. — A man and woman have been charged with attempting to damage and destroy two commercial buildings with fire during the civil unrest in downtown Madison last month.

Anessa Fierro, 27, and Willie Johnson, 45, both of Madison, were charged in two-count complaints for the Aug. 25 incident, according to the Western District of Wisconsin U.S Attorney Scott C. Blader’s office.

The criminal complaints allege the two broke glass windows and doors in each building and poured liquid from a gasoline container into them while attempting to ignite the fluid.

Wide-shot surveillance image shows person igniting flammable liquid, vapors

The complaint said the two successfully started a fire at one building and were trying to do the same to the other when Madison police arrived. Officials said the second building contained seven residential apartments, with three of them being occupied during the attempted arson.

Officials identified Fierro and Johnson through surveillance footage that was recovered during the investigation, the complaint said.

Wide-shot surveillance image of fire started after the vapors on a building's front entryway were ignited.

Wide-shot surveillance image of fire started after the vapors on a building’s front entryway were ignited.
(Image via criminal complaint)

The two were arrested in Madison on Wednesday by Madison police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“Arson is a phenomenally violent crime,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Terry Henderson, of the St. Paul Field Division. “A fire can ravage buildings in mere minutes, putting every occupant or passerby at risk of serious injury or death. Arsonists must be held accountable for their actions.”

Their initial court appearances have not been scheduled as of Wednesday afternoon.

If convicted, both face a mandatory minimum penalty of five years and a maximum of 20 years in federal prison on each count, according to the release.

“Arson is not protest, it is a crime that places the entire community at extreme risk,” Blader said in a statement. “Those who attempt to terrorize the community through such violent crimes will be vigorously prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice.”

Anessa Fierro


A booking photo of Johnson was not immediately available Wednesday.