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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Tacoma man sentenced to two years in prison for early morning fire in ‘CHOP’ zone

Seattle –A former Seattle resident, who prior to his arrest resided in Tacoma, was sentenced today U.S. District Court in Seattle to two years in prison 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, used a can of gasoline to set the fire just feet from where protestors were camped, putting them at risk.  U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour imposed three years of supervised release to follow the prison term.

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.

In asking for a three-year sentence, prosecutors noted that Willoughby planned the crime, posting about his anger and intent on Facebook.  The fire itself put peaceful protestors in danger and they were the ones who quickly acted to put the fire out.  The fire “was counterproductive to what the protestors were trying to accomplish,” Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg told the court.

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

The case was 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 October 5, 2021