CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago man was charged federally with inciting rioting Tuesday, on accusations that he posted multiple messages and videos on Facebook urging people to come downtown and loot this past August.

James Massey, 22, was charged in a criminal complaint in U.S. District Court with using a facility of interstate commerce to incite a rot.

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Prosecutors said on Sunday Aug. 9, 2020, Massey posed Facebook messages and videos calling for people to travel downtown to loot and commit property damage. Throughout the early morning hours on Monday, Aug. 10, numerous people did loot retail stores in the Loop, the South Loop, the Magnificent Mile, River North, Streeterville, the Gold Coast, the Clybourn Corridor, and Lincoln Park, among other areas.

Prosecutors said Massey directed people to meet at a certain location and travel downtown together. Several people responded to messages throughout the night to plan, among other things, where they would loot, prosecutors said.

In one message, a Facebook user allegedly said to others in the group that they were “like 13 cars deep, prosecutors said.

One specific location discussed in the Facebook messages was a marijuana dispensary in the 900 block of West Weed Street in the Clybourn Corridor area. Around 1 a.m. Aug. 10, several people broke into the dispensary by smashing windows using tools that had been in Massey’s car, which was parked in the dispensary parking lot, prosecutors said.

James Massey Looting Charges

James Massey (in blue pants with white stripes) outside marijuana dispensary. (Credit: U.S. Attorney’s Office)

Another incident cited in the complaint happened at a retail store in the 800 block of North Michigan Avenue on the Magnificent Mile, prosecutors said. Massey and several others went into the store, stole numerous coats, and then got back into Massey’s car – at which point someone in the Facebook group announced that they had just “hit” the store. Prosecutors did not specify which store this was.

Massey and others also looted a convenience store in the South Loop – breaking windows to get in and then breaking display counters inside – and also looted a cellphone store in the West Loop shortly before 6 a.m., prosecutors said.

James Massey Looting Charges

James Massey (center in blue pants with white stripe) looting South Loop store. (Credit: U.S. Attorney’s Office)

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Immediately following the looting, police Supt. David Brown said shortly after a suspect with a long criminal history shot at police and officers returned fire, several social media posts encouraged looting in the city.

Police said on the afternoon of Sunday, Aug. 9, they were chasing a 20-year-old armed suspect – Latrell Allen – on foot at 57th Street and Racine Avenue when he started shooting. Officers fired back, hitting Allen, but he survived.

The CPD said the officers involved in the incident did not have body cams.

Outrage over the shooting was exacerbated by misinformation shared by thousands of people on social media that police had shot an unarmed 15-year-old.

Brown said 400 officers were dispatched to the Loop as caravans of cars began driving into the city.

CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported at the time that looters arrived with boxes of rocks and bricks to break into stores. However, police could not keep up with the speed and size of the crowds.

Mayor Lightfoot said following the looting that it was a planned attack, and not a spontaneous reaction to a police shooting.

“When people showed up on Michigan Avenue in the downtown area with U-Haul trucks and cargo vans, and sophisticated equipment used to cut metal, and the methods that were used, and how quickly it got spun up… that wasn’t any spontaneous reaction,” Lightfoot told Time Magazine.

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Following the looting, the city raised Chicago River bridges for the second time in a matter of months and restricted access to the downtown area. Police also set up a looting task force to help identify and apprehend those involved.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff