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Police identify suspect in Chinatown Waymo arson. He’s a 14-year-old boy

A smoking car hulk beside fire fighters.
A 14-year-old was charged in connection with setting a February Waymo vehicle fire in Chinatown, according to authorities. | Source: Courtesy Clara Jeffery

San Francisco prosecutors charged a 14-year-old boy in an arson investigation stemming from a Waymo autonomous vehicle that was set on fire in Chinatown during Lunar New Year celebrations in February, according to police.

Investigators from the SFPD Arson Task Force identified the teenager and obtained a search warrant for his residence on March 27, according to police. Evidence related to the incident was recovered from the home. Authorities declined to release the suspect’s name because of his age.

The District Attorney’s Office has since filed charges against the minor, though it remains unclear whether he will be arrested or appear in court out of custody, as the decision rests with the Juvenile Probation Department, the SFPD added.

A firefighter hoses down a charred car wreck at night, with onlookers behind barriers.
A destroyed Waymo autonomous vehicle robotaxi after it was defaced with graffiti, windows broken, and fireworks thrown on fire inside which caused the vehicle to catch fire in the Chinatown neighborhood of San Francisco on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024. | Source: Courtesy SFFD via Séraphine Hossenlopp

The widely publicized incident happened on Feb. 10 shortly before 9 p.m., when officers responded to reports of a vehicle fire near Jackson Street near Grant Avenue. They arrived to find an unoccupied Waymo robotaxi engulfed in flames.

Video posted to social media showed a crowd of several dozen people surrounding the car and scrawling graffiti on the sides. One man bashed the front passenger window and the windshield with a skateboard, shattering the glass.

Subsequently, someone threw a firework inside, setting the car on fire. Flames quickly engulfed the Jaguar, totally destroying the car.

Firefighters arrived on the scene shortly after and extinguished the blaze.

Waymo confirmed in the aftermath of the incident that the autonomous vehicle had not been transporting any passengers, and no injuries were reported.

“While a criminal charge is forthcoming, this investigation remains open and active,” the department said in a statement.