Seattle – A former Seattle resident, who prior to his arrest resided in Tacoma, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to arson for setting fire to the outside of the Seattle Police East Precinct during the occupied protest known as ‘CHOP’, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. Isaiah Thomas Willoughby, 36, faces up to five years in prison when sentenced by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on October 4, 2021.
According to the plea agreement, in the early morning hours of June 12, 2020, Willoughby was wearing distinctive clothing when he was captured on surveillance video near debris piled next to the wall of the Seattle Police East Precinct. Willoughby admits he used a small gas can, to pour gasoline on the debris. Willoughby steps away from the debris pile for a moment, then reappears with something that he lights on fire and tosses on the debris pile. The pile begins to burn, and Willoughby is seen walking away. The fire scorched the side of the building, but was extinguished by those nearby using fire extinguishers, and pulling the flaming debris away from the building.
After the Seattle Police Department released pictures of the arson suspect, various people recognized Willoughby and noted that the distinctive sweatshirt came from a clothing line he represents. Relatives of Willoughby reported to police that he was in Seattle in the Capitol Hill Organized Protest Zone (CHOP) at the time of the fire. Following the fire, Willoughby took steps to remove posts from his social media accounts that may have linked him to the arson. However, at least some of his Facebook posts remain, noting his anger at police and his knowledge of the East Precinct building.
Willoughby has been in custody at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac since his arrest on July 14, 2020.
Under the terms of the plea agreement the government will recommend a 3-year prison term. The defense is free to recommend any sentence allowed by law. Judge Coughenour is not bound by any recommendation and will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the FBI and the Seattle Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg.
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov.