Tacoma, Washington, woman arrested for allegedly setting five police vehicles on fire during Seattle protest
Distinctive tattoos, videos from stores, public, and police cameras lead to identity of arsonist
Seattle - A 25-year-old Tacoma, Washington, resident was arrested this morning on five federal counts of arson for burning five Seattle P0lice vehicles parked in the area of Sixth and Pine in downtown Seattle on Saturday, May 30, 2020, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. MARGARET AISLINN CHANNON was taken into custody without incident at her Tacoma residence today. She will appear on the criminal complaint in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow, June 12, 2020.
“This defendant was captured by multiple cameras using an accelerant, lit like a blowtorch, to start fires in five vehicles -- putting the public at risk and creating the very real possibility of a structure fire amidst the throng of people protesting downtown,” said U.S. Attorney Moran. “I commend the painstaking work of law enforcement using a variety of images to identify the defendant and locate her so she can be held accountable.”
According to the criminal complaint, investigators from the FBI, ATF, and Seattle Police Department reviewed various videos taken of the Saturday arsons, as well as videos taken at a protest Friday evening. CHANNON appears in videos from both days, and tattoos that she has on her hands and arms are clearly visible. Some of the tattoos link CHANNON to a missing person report in Texas in 2019. Ultimately, investigators uncovered CHANNON’s various social media accounts which helped confirm her identity. Investigators determined she had listed addresses first in Seattle and later in Tacoma.
Law enforcement executed a search warrant at CHANNON’s Tacoma residence and confirmed the distinctive tattoos. They also seized clothing and accessories that appear in some of the videos from the arsons.
“The number one mission of the FBI is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States. The First Amendment guarantees Americans the right to express their opinions and peacefully protest. What it does not provide is the right to invoke violence under the guise of free speech,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Raymond Duda of the Seattle Field Office. “In cooperation with our partners, we will work tirelessly to identify, investigate, and prevent individuals who are inciting violence, and coordinate with the United States Attorney's Office to address any federal violations.”
“ATF is the Federal agency primarily responsible for administering and enforcing the criminal and regulatory provisions of the Federal laws pertaining to arson. Arson is a crime of violence,” said ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Blais. “While we stand by every American’s Constitutional right to protest, when someone turns to violence, we will work tirelessly to investigate their crimes. We are working shoulder-to-shoulder with our local, state and federal partners to bring those responsible for actions such as this to justice.”
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.
Arson is punishable by up to ten years in prison.
The case is being investigated by the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), and the Seattle Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg.