SEATTLE — A 19-year-old Alaska man has been charged with arson in federal court for allegedly starting a fire outside Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct during a protest Monday night.
Desmond David-Pitts was taken into federal custody Wednesday and was charged in the Western District of Washington Thursday with arson, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
"The intentional fire set Monday evening in an organized, pre-planned attack endangered the lives of our officers and our entire community," said Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best in a statement. "This was not a peaceful protest, or demonstration for equity, but an act of lawlessness."
David-Pitts had arrived in Seattle from Alaska three days before Monday’s protest, according to the criminal complaint released Thursday.
After marching with the group in downtown Seattle, he is allegedly seen on surveillance video piling up trash against a door to the East Precinct. The video captured David-Pitts repeatedly lighting the trash on fire and feeding the flames with more trash, court documents said.
While that was happening, court documents said other people who appeared on the surveillance video were trying to use crowbars and cement-like materials to allegedly try and disable the East Precinct door to keep officers from getting out. David-Pitts appeared to be communicating with the other members of the group, according to court documents.
Despite the group's attempts, the officers were able to get outside and put out the flames. David-Pitts was arrested less than an hour later in the crowd outside the East Precinct.
During an interview with police, David-Pitts confessed and told detectives he has had bad experiences with police and got angry during the protest and that’s why he allegedly started the fire, court documents said.
Records show that David-Pitts has the same name as a man who has participated in multiple Anchorage protests after the death of his brother in a police shooting.
“We are hopeful that the federal charges now filed against Mr. David-Pitts will serve as a warning that crimes of violence will not be tolerated in Seattle," said Deputy Chief Adrian Diaz, who will be taking over for Chief Best when she retires in September.