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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Man charged with arson for setting fire to Seattle’s East Police Precinct during Capitol Hill Protest

Defendant posted online about anger at police – Started fire at building during CHOP occupation

Seattle – A former Seattle resident, who most recently resided in Tacoma, was arrested July 14, 2020, on a federal arson charge for setting fire to the outside of the Seattle Police East Precinct during the occupied protest known as ‘CHOP’, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran.  ISAIAH THOMAS WILLOUGHBY, 35, will make his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 2:30 p.m. today.

“This is the third case we have charged federally for the criminal acts that tainted otherwise peaceful protests.  Other crimes remain under investigation and may result in additional federal charges,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran.  “Those who worked to turn protests into riots will not escape accountability for their criminal conduct.” 

According to the criminal complaint, in the early morning hours of June 12, 2020, a person in distinctive clothing was captured on surveillance video near debris piled next to the wall of the Seattle Police East Precinct.  In the video, the suspect appears to use a small can, similar to a gas can, to pour a liquid on the debris.  The suspect steps out of frame, then appears to return with something that he lights on fire and tosses on the debris pile.  The pile begins to burn, and the suspect walks away.  The fire scorched the side of the building, but was extinguished by those nearby using fire extinguishers, and pulling the flaming debris from the building. 

After the Seattle Police Department released pictures of the arson suspect, various people recognized him as 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 was originally arrested and charged in state court.  WILLOUGHBY was arrested last night without incident at a Seattle residence.

“We support every American’s right to protest,” said ATF Seattle Field Division Acting Special Agent in Charge Mickey French.  “But when someone turns to an act of violence, putting many lives in danger, ATF will work to ensure he or she is held accountable.”

“This defendant’s actions are another example, seen many times around the country, where recent peaceful protests and their message, were overshadowed by violence. In this case, he will have to answer for it,” said Raymond Duda, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Seattle.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged two other defendants with crimes related to the civil unrest in May and June 2020.  Margaret Aislinn Channon is charged with five counts of arson for setting police vehicles on fire the evening of May 30, 2020.  Devinare Antwan Parker is charged with possession of an improvised destructive device for the improvised firearm he brought to a protest on May 31, 2020.

Arson is punishable by a mandatory minimum 5 years in prison and up to 20 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), the FBI and the Seattle Police Department.

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

willoughby_complaint.pdf

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 July 15, 2020