Bail set at $1 million for suspect in Greenwood fires

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by KING and KING5.com Staff

KING5.com

Posted on November 13, 2009 at 8:34 AM

Updated Sunday, Nov 15 at 2:52 PM

Greenwood arson spree

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SEATTLE – The man accused of several arsons in North Seattle faced a judge today.

Bail for 46-year-old Kevin Swalwell was set at $1 million.  He will be formally charged on Nov. 17.

According to court documents, shortly after his arrest, Swalwell admitted to detectives that he was outside of Carlos Salmeron's house the day of an Aug. 14 fire. 

Salmeron was burned over 60 percent of his body while trying to escape from his home.

"The fire, it was like it was waiting for me when I opened the door it was like whoosh!  It directly hit my face," he said. 

Swalwell's palm prints were also found on lighter fluid left at the scene.  

"As the investigation has developed Mr. Swalwell has admitted to starting the fire," said prosecuting attorney Erin Becker.

Police say Swalwell, a convicted arsonist, was taken into custody at about 12:30 a.m. Friday, about 10 blocks from a three-alarm fire that burned a vacant furniture warehouse at Aurora Avenue North and North 170th Street in Shoreline.

Investigators have ruled that fire arson and are calling Swalwell a 'person of interest.'

He was booked on investigation of arson for the Greenwood fires. Another person was also questioned and released.

Court documents also say that Swalwell was captured on surveillance video on Nov. 9 at the time of a fire being set behind the "Olive You" restaurant. Detectives say Swalwell admitted to them he was solely responsible for that fire, along with several other fires in the neighborhood.

The Seattle Police Department has confirmed 14 fires are now connected to the Greenwood arsonist, most of them small businesses.

Court records show Swalwell has been to prison twice for arson, including seven years for fires at the Echo Lake Apartments in North Seattle in 1995.

During an afternoon press conference, Seattle police said there is a lot of information they are not yet releasing because the investigation is still ongoing.

Seattle Police Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer said the arrest came as a result of a task force involving police, the Seattle Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, as well as tips from people in the Greenwood community.

Seattle Police Asst. Chief Paul McDonagh says detectives believe Swalwell is responsible for some, if not all, of the Greenwood arsons.

"These conclusions are based on eyewitness testimony, forensic evidence and information from the suspect. Detectives are working with the King County Prosecutor's Office to detain charges as soon as possible," said McDonagh.

"Arsonists like Kevin Swalwell can't predict the violence nor the rate at which the fire progresses. Every time he strikes that match, it leaves human lives hanging in the balance," said ATF agent Kelvin Crenshaw.

Crenshaw said, as a point of reference, there have been 68 arsons in Greenwood in the past two years, 17 of which have come in the past two months.

McDonagh says enhanced police patrols of the Greenwood neighborhood will continue to ensure the area is safe.

"I hope this is the person. This neighborhood has been in pandemonium the past month or so," said Chrissy Barrows, who works at Sip and Ship coffee shop.

This weekend, Green Bean Coffee House, which was destroyed in the Oct. 23 fires, will be moving into a space owned by Sip and Ship.

"If this is the person who did this, this neighborhood will breathe a sigh of relief and sleep a little better tonight," said Green Bean owner Randy Rowland.

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