Man pleads not guilty to inciting riot in Huntington Beach

A West Covina man accused of inciting a riot and starting a fire in Huntington Beach over the weekend has pleaded not guilty and is due back in court next week.

Illario Niko Johnson, 18, is charged with felony arson, inciting a riot and unlawful assembly in connection with the rioting Sunday night that followed the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach.

If convicted, Johnson’s sentence could range from probation to three years in prison. He pleaded not guilty Thursday and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing Aug. 9.

PHOTOS: Huntington Beach riots

Two photos went viral after the rioting -- one showing a man smashing the front window of the Easyrider bike shop with a stop sign and another showing the same man shouting with his arms in the air.

Those who shared the images on social media indicated they did so in hopes of identifying the person responsible.

Many on Twitter and Facebook identified the person in the photos as Johnson, whose name was also published by the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets. However, police said Tuesday that investigators spoke to Johnson and determined he was "not the suspect in the photographs."

A person identified as Johnson acknowledged on his Twitter account Monday that he was seen in videos taken during the disturbance.

"I feel like HB Most Wanted right now!" the person wrote to a friend.

On Wednesday, the person wrote the detectives "sure know how to get ahold of me lol."

"Detective Reilly was so nice right now!"another tweet read. "Why couldn't he be like that on Monday lol"

Authorities allege Johnson set fires along Main Street as an unruly crowd moved into downtown Huntington Beach after the close of the eight-day surfing contest. Portable toilets were toppled and windows smashed and several fights broke out as looters grabbed merchandise from stores.

Seven people were arrested Sunday evening as about 250 officers descended on the area to quell the violence.


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