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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, August 27, 2020

Alaska man charged federally with setting fire at Seattle Police East Precinct

Defendant in distinctive clothing started fire while others attempted to block door to stop officers from exiting

(Seattle) -  A 19-year-old Alaska man was charged with arson today for the fire he set Monday, August 24, 2020 at the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran.  DESMOND DAVID-PITTS was arrested shortly after the fire following a Monday night protest march. DAVID-PITTS appeared today in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

“This is the fourth defendant to appear in federal court after being charged with criminal conduct that went far beyond any peaceful protest,” said U.S. Attorney Brian Moran. “Those who go to protest but choose violence and criminal acts over protected speech will face the full weight of federal criminal sanctions.  This illegal conduct must end.”

“The intentional fire set Monday evening in an organized, pre-planned attack endangered the lives of our officers and our entire community.  This was not a peaceful protest, or demonstration for equity, but an act of lawlessness.  We are grateful our federal partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office recognize the criminal nature of these acts and are holding those responsible accountable,” said Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best.

Deputy Chief Adrian Diaz promised to maintain the SPD’s federal partnerships as he takes command of the Department and added “We are hopeful that the federal charges now filed against Mr. David-Pitts will serve as a warning that crimes of violence will not be tolerated in Seattle.”

According to the criminal complaint, DAVID-PITTS had arrived in Seattle from Alaska just three days before Monday’s protest.  After marching with the group in downtown Seattle, DAVID-PITTS is seen on surveillance video piling up trash against the sally-port door at the Seattle Police East Precinct.  Over an eleven minute period the surveillance video captures DAVID-PITTS not only piling up the trash, but repeatedly lighting it on fire and feeding the flames with more trash.  While DAVID-PITTS was lighting the fire, other people who appeared on the surveillance were attempting to use crowbars and cement-like materials to try to disable the door next to the sally-port to prevent officers from exiting the building.  At various times DAVID-PITTS appeared to be communicating with the others.  Despite efforts to disable the door, officers were able to get outside and extinguish the flames.  A similarly equipped group set a second fire around the corner from the DAVID-PITTS arson, and DAVID-PITTS was seen on surveillance working with the others to cut through a chain-link fence that was a barrier around the building.  The second fire was extinguished by Seattle Police Officers and members of the Seattle Fire Department.

DAVID-PITTS was identified less than an hour later in the crowd outside the precinct because of the distinctive pink camouflage trousers he was wearing.  He was arrested without incident.

Three people have already been charged with federal crimes in connection to civil unrest:

  • On July 15, Isaiah Thomas Willoughby was charged with arson in connection with a fire set at the East Precinct.
  • On June 11, Margaret Aislinn Channon was charged with arson for setting five Seattle Police vehicles on fire.
  • On June 10, Devinare Antwan Parker was charged with possessing a destructive device for bringing an improvised firearm to a protest.

Arson is punishable by a mandatory minimum five years in prison and up to twenty years in prison.

The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations.  A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) and the Seattle Police Department.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg.

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Contact: 
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov.
Updated September 10, 2020