As Capitol Hill night spots head into another weekend of business on Broadway, Pike and Pine and Neighbours prepares for a Saturday night event to celebrate its history in Seattle party culture, a person with knowledge of the investigation into the New Year’s arson fire at the dance club says a person of interest has been spotted in surveillance video and images recorded as flames erupted inside the packed disco.
According to the source who spoke with CHS on the condition of anonymity, the man can be seen entering the club just before midnight. Beneath his coat, he is believed to be carrying a canister of gasoline later found at the scene.
Detectives with the Seattle Police Arson/Bomb Squad are looking for clues to nail the perpetrator. “If you saw anything suspicious in or around the bar on New Year’s Eve, please call the SPD Arson/Bomb Squad tip line at (206) 684-8980,” a SPD spokesperson wrote following the January 1st attack. This week, a police spokesperson told CHS any images or video of a suspect would be released at the discretion of the detectives working the case. No suspect has been identified as of Thursday morning, according to SPD.
Despite the club’s long history and place in Capitol Hill gay culture, no evidence has yet been revealed that would mark the arson attempt as a hate crime. The Souther Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog did note the crime at the Seattle club and the club’s past brushes with intolerance including a 1990 pipe bomb plan thwarted by the FBI.
Newly sworn-in Mayor Ed Murray said it was too early to know if the arson was a hate crime. The incident was not mentioned during statements made by officials as Murray named his new interim Chief of Police Harry Bailey earlier this week.
Despite a call for tips and witness accounts, police have not issued a warning about possible additional fires or attacks at other area clubs and bars but a spokesperson did say that area nightspots should remain vigilant.
Police say a small red gasoline can was found at the top of the stairs where the fire originally spread before being extinguished by a quick acting patron and employee.
Meanwhile, the building’s fire sprinkler system was activated, soaking the club and forcing more than 700 revelers to flee. There were no serious injuries in the incident and Seattle Fire estimated damage to the club at around $6,000. Neighbours was cleaned up and back in business by the night of January 2nd.
This Saturday night, a “Neighbours Appreciation/NYE Redux Party” is planned for the club:
We promised you a party and that is what you are going to get! THANK YOU for all the support, it truly means the world to us. Join Aleksa Manila, Ceasar Hart, La Saveona Hunt, Atasha Manila, Jessica Paradisco and more…
We’re told club owner Moustafa Elassiouti and management plan to build a new wall outside the club and will move the Neighbours entrance to Broadway to help restrict access to the venue. In the meantime, staff and security at the club are being praised for their role in preventing a major tragedy.