New court documents in the case against alleged Neighbours arsonist Musab Musmari reveal how Seattle Police detectives have asked tech and communication giants like Google and Facebook for help and how the FBI gathered evidence of Musmari’s “potential terrorist activity,” “a possible federal hate crime” and “federal arson.”
Musmari currently is charged with one count of first degree arson for the alleged New Year’s fire attack on Broadway’s Neighbours dance club. The 30-year-old former Harvard Ave E resident pleaded not guilty to the charges in February.
The new documents in the sprawling investigation show how SPD is casting a net into the pools of data and customer records at the big companies that provide online and phone services as authorities search for evidence that Musmari’s alleged attack targeted Neighbours because of the club’s presence in Seattle’s gay community. Here is a portion of the department’s search warrant request sent to Microsoft:
The documents also detail the role the FBI has played as it used a confidential informant to learn more about Musmari’s activities as part of its terrorism and hate crime investigation.
“The hate crime, if evidence were developed of that crime, would be based on the fact that Neighbours is primarily a business catering to LGBTQ clientele,” the court filings read. According to the documents, the informant contacted the FBI on January 7th after meeting with Musmari, who has also gone by the names Masmari and AlMesmari, at Fatima’s Cafe on E Union. That element of the case was reported earlier. But the documents detail the FBI’s continued use of the informant for weeks following that first meeting:
The informant, who police say has prior convictions for unlawful imprisonment, making a terror threat and criminal contempt, told SPD detectives that Musmari had expressed a hatred of gay people:
Other witnesses also told police Musmari said he had been kicked out of Neighbours in the past.
Police say the January 13th release of images from surveillance video taken inside Neighbours spurred “numerous tips in which callers said the person looked like” the suspect. Police say one witness told them Musmari “indicated concern about the media coverage. The next day, a travel agent booked a one way airline ticket for Musmari, police say.
In addition to the search warrants with online services and phone companies, phone recording with the confidential informant and the information provided by witnesses who called to report details like Musmari’s alleged past problems with Neighbours following the release of surveillance images from the club, police are gathering broader components for the case. According to the documents, police have information from people inside Neighbours who saw a man fitting Musmari’s description in the club’s balcony sitting at one of the VIP tables before flames broke out nearby. They have also so far unsuccessfully scoured records from nearby gas stations to find out if the fuel used to soak the stairway inside the club before it was set on fire was purchased in the area. Aiding the search is a laptop, phones and credit card information detectives are in the process of examining as they seek court permission and service provider compliance to follow the information trail. Police are also seeking evidence of any photographs Musmari may have taken at or nearby Neighbours.
The new information also includes details of the role played by an associate who police say was with Musmari when he was arrested on February 1st and, according to police, was about to drive Musmari to the airport. The Musmari friend told detectives he bought the suspect a ticket to Turkey in exchange for the title to Musmari’s car:
The unnamed friend is referred to as a witness in the document. We do not know if the person faces charges in the investigation. According to police, the witness visited Musmari in jail following his February 1st arrest. During the visit, the witness said Musmari told him “he had started a fire and was involved.”
In a new twist, while they don’t indicate how authorities discovered that an airline ticket had been allegedly purchase for Musmari, the documents reveal that the purchase of a one-way ticket to Turkey by Musmari’s friend had been cancelled “because something went wrong with the booking.”
Musmari is jailed on $1 million bail. The next hearing in his case is slated for April.
UPDATE 3/25/2014 4:26 PM: Here is the primary search warrant document filed last week in the case: