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SPD official calls Monday night’s arson fire outside Capitol Hill’s East Precinct ‘attempted murder’ — UPDATE: Federal arrest

The new Seattle Police official in charge of the department’s Public Affairs Office is calling Monday night’s fire set to a pile of cardboard and debris outside the East Precinct “attempted murder.”

Sgt. Randy Huserik made the claims to local television news crews as SPD released surveillance video from the night as police clashed with protesters after hours of marching in solidarity with the demonstrations and riots following the police shooting in Kenosha.

UPDATE 3:50 PM: The King County Prosecutor’s Office announced Wednesday that a person arrested in the Monday night arson investigation is being transferred to federal custody.

The prosecutor identified the arrested man as Desmond David-Pitts. He has not been charged in the crime. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office says it reviewed the first appearance information provided by police and was preparing to ask a judge to hold David-Pitts on bail on probable cause for first-degree arson.

The prosecutor says the suspect is being transferred to federal custody, and his case is now expected to be handled at the federal level. SPD was not yet able to provide its documents to CHS detailing the official report on the suspect’s arrest.

King County Jail records show David-Pitts was released from its custody Wednesday afternoon.

UPDATE 8/27/20 3:00 PM: David-Pitts, 19, has been charged with arson in federal court, the United States Department of Justice announced Thursday:

According to the criminal complaint, DAVID-PITTS had arrived in Seattle from Alaska just three days before Monday’s protest. After marching with the group in downtown Seattle, DAVID-PITTS is seen on surveillance video piling up trash against the sally-port door at the Seattle Police East Precinct. Over an eleven minute period the surveillance video captures DAVID-PITTS not only piling up the trash, but repeatedly lighting it on fire and feeding the flames with more trash. While DAVID-PITTS was lighting the fire, other people who appeared on the surveillance were attempting to use crowbars and cement-like materials to try to disable the door next to the sally-port to prevent officers from exiting the building. At various times DAVID-PITTS appeared to be communicating with the others. Despite efforts to disable the door, officers were able to get outside and extinguish the flames. A similarly equipped group set a second fire around the corner from the DAVID-PITTS arson, and DAVID-PITTS was seen on surveillance working with the others to cut through a chain-link fence that was a barrier around the building. The second fire was extinguished by Seattle Police Officers and members of the Seattle Fire Department.

In the announcement, the DOJ says police were able to identify the 19-year-old Alaskan in a crowd outside the precinct “because of the distinctive pink camouflage trousers he was wearing.”

In its press release, the DOJ said incoming interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz “promised to maintain the SPD’s federal partnerships as he takes command of the Department.”

“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,” Diaz is quoted as saying in the release.

The federal charging document also provides more details on allegations that protesters tried to blockade an East Precinct door.

In the criminal complaint, police say David-Pitts acknowledged starting the fire. “My stupid ass got angry,” police report the 19-year-old admitted. “So that’s exactly why I was acting the way I did. I’m accountable.”

“I’m like, ah, damn, that’s where it fucked up,” he reportedly said at another point in the interview. “And, then, snap, my angry ass got just, you know, and then it’s like you just fed the literal fucking fire.”

David-Pitts appeared in this Anchorage Daily News report from June on demonstrations in Anchorage:

Desmond David-Pitts told the story of his brother, 16-year-old Daelyn Polu, who was shot and killed by Anchorage Police in February during a traffic stop where police say a male passenger shot at officers during the encounter. One policeman was struck during the traffic stop but was protected by his body armor, according to a police statement. David-Pitts questioned the official report.

Original report: Fears of an arson attack on the building have been a frequent talking point for SPD brass through the summer. In early June, Chief Carmen Best said “specific information from the FBI” about threats to the 12th and Pine facility drove the early thinking on SPD tactics to aggressively defend the building that led to the first major conflicts with protesters and eventually to SPD’s abandonment of the structure.

In July, a 35-year-old Tacoma man was arrested on federal arson charges for setting fire to plywood on the East Precinct building — a blaze that was quickly extinguished by CHOP protesters.

Best, meanwhile, is set to step down from her post in early September over efforts to “defund” the department even as Mayor Jenny Durkan has vetoed legislation to begin the defunding process.

SPD says its investigation into Monday’s fire continues. One person was taken into custody by police the night of the incident.

The video released by SPD shows what Huserik is reported to have claimed are protesters using quick drying concrete and debris to try to block the door of the 12th and Pine building as a fire is set along the structure’s 12th Ave wall. The video doesn’t clearly show the concrete but Huserik says officers were able to break through.

“They mixed up the ‘Quikrete’ and then tried to seal off the exits,” Huserik told KOMO. “I don’t think there’s a lot of leaps that have to be made about what their intent was last night.”

SPD’s Public Affairs report on the night’s incidents doesn’t include the attempt to block the door but it does mention a door “damaged by protesters” and features a picture posted by the department that appears to show a door smeared with a thin layer of concrete.

Conservative radio pundit Jason Rantz reports that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is working with SPD on the investigation and featured Seattle Police Officers Guild president Mike Solan on his show claiming “domestic terrorists are continuing to hold our great city hostage by their criminal acts.”

The fire did not do significant damage to the building and while Seattle Fire was called to the scene, private security in the area reportedly helped SPD knock the flames down before fire crews brought it fully under control.

The Public Affairs Office said it could not provide the official SPD report because the incident remains under investigation.

The East Precinct has remained fenced-off behind metal and concrete barriers, a structure that was bolstered as the CHOP occupied protest was raided and swept and appears to be a permanent addition to the SPD building.

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15 thoughts on “SPD official calls Monday night’s arson fire outside Capitol Hill’s East Precinct ‘attempted murder’ — UPDATE: Federal arrest

  1. Martin Pang was convicted of first degree manslaughter for the death of fire fighters whom tried to extinguish a fire he set in 1995 in Seattle. And causing injury to the fire fighters likely was part of his thinking. Seems like a savvy prosecutor can make manslaughter charges stick for arson at a place of employment when the arsonist is targeting the employees.

    • I mean…they lit a building on fire with people inside while attempting to seal an exit. What other intent is there?

      This type of escalation and all this violence isn’t accruing to anything good. Other than further inflaming tensions and inciting more violence, which is probably what these people want anyway.

    • That’s incorrect.

      The Revised Code of Washington establishes that “homicide is justifiable … when necessarily used by a peace officer … [to] suppress a riot.”

      Therefore, while it may or may not be attempted homicide it’s factually not attempted murder.

  2. A lot of cognitive dissonance going around on this one, mostly to the effect of “Well, the East Precinct has multiple entrances/exits and the quick-dry concrete didn’t work out so well, so how could it possibly be attempted murder lol?”

    If you threaten to kill someone, pull out a gun, and hit them in the leg, foot, and hand, it doesn’t cease to be attempted murder because your aim sucks.

    • Exactly. The rioters blocked the exits from the precinct and tried to set the building on fire. If that isn’t attempted murder, I don’t know what is.

  3. Yikes!

    Folks need to stop justifying frightening violent behavior. Just cause the cops do it doesn’t make it okay. Quite to the contrary, which I believe was the original point here?

    Also, can people please take this elsewhere? The neighborhood is tired of hosting.

  4. I imagine Pitts will be charged under section 921 relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction (since the USC includes just about any type of weapon imaginable as a weapon of mass destruction, even shotguns) if he came from Alaska (according to news reports, was in Alaska as recently as June) since Sec 921 requires interstate travel as a jurisdictional condition.

    The maximum sentence is life imprisonment, however, if he has no criminal record and pleads guilty the sentencing guidelines say he should get 0-6 months.

    However, a terrorism adjustment can be applied if the act was intended to influence government policy or retaliate against government conduct (e.g. if he was mad about Durkan’s veto or had a grudge against the police). It seems likely they’ll try to hang him on this since he’s said he blames the police for the death of his 16 year-old brother who was shot by police in Anchorage while reaching for an illegal handgun in his possession. The terrorism adjustment will increase the range from 0-6 months and a $500 fine to 10-15 years and a $150,000 fine.

    • They’ll definitely be able to get a federal terrorism endorsement on a conviction if that’s the case. If he traveled interstate and his actions were motivated by revenge against a government agency for a perceived or actual wrong that’s a minimum 10 years before parole eligibility with no judge’s discretion for a lower sentence.

  5. It is truly sick that respondents play a game of whataboutism and minimize the serious evil of trying to set a building on fire with people in it. There is flaming indignation at every real or perceived misstep by police, even those that are not likely to end in death (eg – taking down a protester with physical force, flash bangs etc.). But this act of arson has those discrediting people who call it for what it is as hand-ringers. Ask yourself if you would be so casual about it were this a bunch of proud boys putting glue on the doors of a home occupied by some Antifa types and throwing in a lit accelerant. Our Alaska visitor has earned a serious amount of time in federal prison.

  6. >>>
    According to the report, witnesses corroborated the officers’ accounts of what happened leading up to the shooting. They noted Polu was not cooperative, refused to identify himself, tried to shut the car door on an officer and asked to leave the scene. One witness reported hearing officers say “don’t do it” and “don’t reach for it.”

    According to the report, neither officer appeared to unholster their weapons until after Polu had already fired his gun.

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