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Tacoma man faces charge for setting fire to Seattle Police's East Precinct during CHOP

A criminal complaint says a man formerly of Seattle piled debris next to the police precinct in Capitol Hill before lighting it on fire and walking away.
Credit: KING
An aerial view of the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) Zone in Seattle after police cleared the streets to prepare to return to the East Precinct.

SEATTLE — A 35-year-old Tacoma resident faces a federal arson charge for setting fire to the outside of the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct during the occupied protest in Capitol Hill known as CHOP, and previously, CHAZ.

Isaiah Willoughby, formerly of Seattle, will make his first court appearance at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday for the arson on June 12.

“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.

According to a criminal complaint, a person in "distinctive clothing" was seen in the early hours of June 12 near debris piled next to the wall of the East Precinct. In a video, the person appears to pour liquid on the debris before lighting the pile on fire.  

RELATED: Washington senator wants to block future autonomous zones like Seattle's CHOP

The fire scorched the building but was extinguished by people using fire extinguishers and pulling the debris away.

Police were removed from the precinct and it was boarded up days before to deescalate tensions with protesters. 

People recognized Willoughby in photos released by police, noting his sweatshirt came from a clothing line he represents. Relatives of Willoughby, according to the criminal complaint, reported to police he was in the protest zone at the time of the fire.

RELATED: Protesters file claims against Seattle, state over excessive force

Willoughby attempted to remove social media posts that may have linked him to the arson - some posts remained, including those of anger toward police and knowledge of the precinct, according to the criminal complaint.

He was originally arrested and charged in state court. He was arrested again on July 14 at a Seattle residence. 

The U.S. Attorney's Office has charged two other people with crimes related to civil unrest in May and June, including Margaret Channon of Tacoma, who was charged last month for allegedly setting fire to five police cars in downtown Seattle.

RELATED: Inside look at Seattle's East Precinct after police clear out 'CHOP' zone