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Indiana man faces federal charges, plus 26 other felonies, for violent Portland protests

An Indiana man accused of throwing an explosive toward police and smashing windows during protests in Portland, Oregon, appeared in federal court Tuesday.

PORTLAND, Ore. — (NOTE: The video in the player above is from the June 2020 protest march to the governor's residence.)

An Indiana man, charged with 26 felonies, is now facing federal charges for allegedly throwing an explosive toward police and smashing windows during protests in Portland, Oregon.

Malik Muhammad, 24, of Indianapolis, first made headlines last year when he de-escalated a tense standoff by hugging a police lieutenant in Indianapolis.

RELATED: Officers march peacefully with protesters outside the governor's residence

On Tuesday, Muhammad appeared in U.S. District Court in Portland, where he was charged with civil disorder and obstructing law enforcement, possession of an unregistered firearm and using explosives to commit a federal felony.

The three federal charges Muhammad now faces are in addition to the 26 felonies in a Multnomah County case stemming from the same allegations, KGW reported

Muhammad was being held in state custody until May 26, when the Portland Freedom Fund posted 10% of his state-ordered $2.1 million bail. 

In a memo signed last week, Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Nathan Vasquez argued that Muhammad should not be released and no bail be set, given the violent felonies he faces. 

But the motion was signed two days after Muhammad had already been released from Multnomah County Jail. 

RELATED: Protest organizer who hugged Indy cop during march charged with attempted murder after violent Portland protests last year

But he wasn't free for long. Last Friday, he was taken into custody on a U.S. Marshals hold. After appearing in federal court Tuesday, he was detained pending further proceedings.

Muhammad was first arrested back in April for his alleged involvement in a number of violent incidents at Portland protests outlined in a Multnomah County indictment, according to KGW.

According to court records, Muhammad threw lit Molotov cocktails at police officers on multiple occasions during protests last September. One of those incendiary devices briefly lit a police officer's pants on fire, prosecutors say. 

Just weeks later, Muhammad allegedly used a metal baton to smash out windows at the Oregon Historical Society, Portland State University and other businesses during an Oct. 11 riot in downtown Portland, according to court records. An undercover FBI agent said they watched Muhammad break the windows.

Prosecutors had originally charged Muhammad with possession of a loaded gun in public, unlawful possession of a gun, first-degree criminal mischief and riot stemming from the Oct. 11 incident.

The charges were dismissed on Feb. 10 but were reinstated in April, along with the more serious attempted aggravated murder charges.

If he's convicted of the 26 felony charges, he'll face a mandatory prison sentence of at least 10 years.

Muhammad traveled to Portland to participate in the protests, said his mother, Lori Muhammad.

Muhammad helped organize various rallies in Indianapolis last summer against racial injustice and police use of force, according to press reports.

He made headlines after helping to defuse a tense standoff between police and demonstrators in Indianapolis by hugging a police lieutenant on June 1.

“I never in a million years thought I would embrace a cop like that,” Muhammad said afterward.

Days after the exchange, Muhammad had a private meeting with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb to discuss police reform.

Public records indicate Muhammad is an Army veteran. He has no prior criminal history.

Since May, Portland police have referred more than 1,000 protest cases to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office; 81 percent of those cases have been rejected. Multnomah County DA Mike Schmidt has said he would not pursue non-violent, low-level charges against protesters.

Schmidt’s policy has been met with criticism from other law enforcement officials in neighboring counties and across the state, along with the Portland Police Association, the union representing officers in the Portland Police Bureau.

Schmidt said his office would focus on more serious protest-related crimes, like assault and other offenses against people.