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St. Petersburg roommates accused of making, testing Molotov cocktail

One of the men was arrested in June after protests started. His cell phone contained videos that implicated both men in making the bomb, St. Petersburg police said.
Abraham Naveed Quraishi, 26, left, and Seanfrancis Kavanaugh Ziegenbein, 23, right, face charges of making or discharging a destructive device, according to St. Petersburg police.
Abraham Naveed Quraishi, 26, left, and Seanfrancis Kavanaugh Ziegenbein, 23, right, face charges of making or discharging a destructive device, according to St. Petersburg police. [ Pinellas County Sheriff's Office ]
Published Aug. 23, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — Two roommates are accused of assembling and testing a Molotov cocktail during the early days of the Black Lives Matter protests, according to St. Petersburg police.

The charges were uncovered because one of the men, 26-year-old Abraham Naveed Quraishi, was arrested on a firearms charges during a June 3 protest. Police later searched his phone, which investigators say uncovered video evidence that the men built and used the explosive device.

The videos also implicate Quraishi’s roommate, Seanfrancis Kavanaugh Ziegenbein, 23, police said.

Quraishi was arrested July 28 on charges of terrorist activity and making or discharging a destructive device, police said. Ziegenbein was arrested Aug. 19 on a charge of making or discharging a destructive device.

Quraishi was first arrested the night of June 3 as officers asked a group of 30 protesters to leave First Avenue N so they could re-open the road outside St. Petersburg Police headquarters, police said.

He was accused of throwing a 40mm foam baton round, or crowd-control weapon, at St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway and a group of officers, the agency said. Officers spotted a gun in Quraishi,’s waistband, and he was accused of fighting them when he was arrested on several charges. The gun was loaded and Quraishi does not have a concealed carry permit, police say. He was freed June 4 after posting $110,000 bail.

A search warrant was obtained for his phone, and the arrest report says officers discovered a number of videos filmed days before his June 3 arrest. The videos show the “construction” of a Molotov cocktail; someone testing the explosive device; Quraishi holding a rifle outside police headquarters with the caption “stay home;” driving by the old police building, displaying a weapon and using the caption “thinking about;” pointing a weapon at an unmarked police vehicle; driving by the St. Pete Pier with a rifle and Molotov cocktail in the car; and videos of Quraishi performing “reconnaissance from high vantage points” around police headquarters.

After his arrest, Quraishi called his uncle from jail June 5 and asked him to tow his car from outside police headquarters, the report said. It was towed June 6 to Pinellas Park, and on June 8, it was searched by Pinellas Park police officers.

Inside, police found what they believe to be the Molotov cocktail seen in one of the videos. The arrest report says “there is reason to believe the defendant was going to discharge the device.” He was freed Aug. 7 after posting $100,000 bail.

Ziegenbein is the man seen in the video testing the explosive device, according to St. Petersburg police. He is accused of throwing the Molotov cocktail in the parking lot of Vertical Ventures at 116 18th St. S. Remnants of the device were found by the owner. Ziegenbein was freed from the county jail on Aug. 20 after posting $15,000 bail.

Quraishi also faces felony charges from his June arrest — carrying a concealed firearm in the commission of a felony, inciting a riot, and four counts of resisting an officer with violence.

Both men have pleaded not guilty.