2 charged in connection to arson at Thelma Orr COP House in Racine

Justin Hernandez and Kylie Gelmi

RACINE — Two people have been charged in connection the arson of Thelma Orr Community-Oriented Policing House that happened early Monday, June 1 amid protests following the officer-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Justin Hernandez, 25, of Racine and Kylie Gelmi, 20, of Mount Pleasant face multiple counts related to the incident.

The Thelma Orr COP House is located at 1146 Villa Street in Racine. Racine Police Chief Art Howell said Monday that Thelma Orr is Racine’s equivalent to Rosa Parks. Those who knew Orr said she was a civil rights activist who strove to unite police and the community.

Fire damages Racine's Thelma Orr Community Policing House

Fire damages Racine’s Thelma Orr Community Policing House

Thelma Orr Community-Oriented Policing House

Fire damages Racine’s Thelma Orr Community Policing House

According to a criminal complaint, investigators found extensive damage on the first floor of the building near the west rear door; it was determined that that damage was consistent with a fire-starting event using a liquid fire accelerant.

Investigators also viewed social media videos related to the fire. In one video, a Hispanic male with silver glasses and a chinstrap style beard — later identified as Hernandez — turn the camera to the burning door and say “Oh the boss let that (expletive) burn!” and “We went in there and destroyed all that (expletive)!”

During an interview with authorities, Hernandez admitted to setting fire to the exterior of the building, identifying himself in more than one video as well as in an attempt to start a second fire. A search of Hernandez’s phone also showed a woman — later identified as Gelmi — placing an item on fire inside the back door of the building before running out.

Gelmi admitted to police that she was present during the arson and to placing an item into the fire.

Hernandez faces two counts: arson of building, party to a crime; and burglary of a building or dwelling, party to a crime.

Gelmi faces three counts: arson of building, party to a crime; burglary of a building or dwelling, party to a crime; and felony bail jumping. Third charge against Gelmi stems from an October 2019 incident in which she was released from custody on bond conditions that included not committing any new crimes. That bond was in full effect on the date of the arson, according to the criminal complaint.

Both Hernandez and Gelmi have motion hearings scheduled for Friday, June 5.

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