SEATTLE, WA – A federal judge sentenced a 20-year-old Alaska man Monday to 20 months in prison for trying to set fire to a Seattle police precinct trapping officers inside during last summer’s racial justice protests, less than half the prison time sought by prosecutors.
An Alaskan man has been sentenced to prison for setting a fire at Seattle's East Precinct last summer. https://t.co/MSIusJ2TbQ
— MyNorthwest.com 🌲 (@Mynorthwest) May 24, 2021
Desmond David-Pitts arrived in Seattle from Alaska on August 21, 2020, just three days before he set fire to the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct during the protests.
David-Pitts, of Anchorage, pleaded guilty to a federal arson conspiracy charge in January, acknowledging he set fire to trash piled outside an East Precinct sally-port door late on Aug. 24 while others tried to bar a door to keep officers from escaping the building.
“New SPD surveillance video from the East Precinct shows rioters setting fires around the precinct, after trying to cement the door shut, while officers are inside.”https://t.co/R9xd39mRyU
— Washington State GOP (@WAGOP) August 29, 2020
According to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release:
“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.”
Despite the efforts of protesters to disable the exit door and light other fires around the building, officers were able to exit the building and extinguish the fires.
Desmond David-Pitts was identified as the man who lit a fire outside a Seattle Police precinct and fed the flames while other rioters tried to trap officers inside the building. https://t.co/z8OYGKcHmj
— Q13 FOX Seattle (@Q13FOX) May 25, 2021
David-Pitts was identified less than an hour later in the crowd outside the precinct because of the distinctive pink, camouflage trousers he was wearing, according to the DOJ.
At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour noted the serious danger the fire posed to Seattle Police Officers who could have been trapped inside the building.
Desmond David-Pitts, of Anchorage, pleaded guilty to a federal arson conspiracy charge in January, acknowledging he set a fire to trash piled outside an East Precinct sally-port door late on Aug. 24. David-Pitts was arrested within an hour. https://t.co/rYWxZJd47O
— The Seattle Times (@seattletimes) May 25, 2021
Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman said the actions of David-Pitts threatened the safety of the community:
“A handful of people bent on destruction, by committing arson and threatening the safety of our community, also drowned out the important message of those who peacefully protest injustice.
“This defendant joined with others to put Seattle Police Officers at risk. It is wholly appropriate that he spend time in prison as a consequence of his criminal acts.”
— AntifaWatch (@AntifaWatch2) May 24, 2021
Immediately following the harrowing incident at the East Precinct, Sgt. Randy Huserik with the Seattle Police Department said the incident was not a protest, but a targeted attack on police:
“That’s not a protest, that’s not a demonstration that’s a directed attack against the police. Last night was, was clearly a coordinated attack against three Seattle Police facilities.
“They mixed up the ‘Quikrete’ and then tried to seal off the exits. I don’t think there’s a lot of leaps that have to be made about what their intent was last night.”
Police arrest Desmond David-Pitts who they say was part of group that locked Seattle police in building, tried to burn them alive https://t.co/AiAH4jbaYe He doesn't want his face on social media.
— Larry Keaton (@larrykeaton) August 29, 2020
Prosecutors acknowledged that David-Pitts had suffered mistreatment as a child and that he had mental health and substance abuse issues.
But they asked Judge Coughenour for a sentence of just under four years, saying they had already shown leniency by reaching a plea deal that helped David-Pitts avoid a five-year mandatory minimum.
Judge Coughenour disagreed with prosecutors and only sentenced David-Pitts to a 20-month sentence and payment of restitution.
David-Pitts has agreed to pay restitution to the Seattle Police Department for damage to the building, according to the DOJ.
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) and the Seattle Police Department.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg.
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Police arrest man who they say was part of group that locked Seattle police in building, tried to burn them alive
August 28, 2020
SEATTLE, WA – An arrest has been made in the arson attack lodged against the Seattle Police East Precinct on August 24th, in which the DOJ announced that a 19-year-old suspect is said to be behind the insidious act.
There's protesting and then there's vandalism and human harm. This asshole committed the later. https://t.co/yyrnQBVumZ
— Renée Kelly (@Skepti_Schism) August 27, 2020
U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran announced the charges of arson against Desmond David-Pitts on August 27th, attributing to him being the person who attempted to set fire to the SPD building on the evening of the 24th.
Moran stated the following with regard to the arrest and charging of David-Pitts:
“This is the fourth defendant to appear in federal court after being charged with criminal conduct that went far beyond any peaceful protest. Those who go to protest but choose violence and criminal acts over protected speech will face the full weight of federal criminal sanctions. This illegal conduct must end.”
David-Pitts, described as an Alaskan man, made his first appearance in federal court recently via a video conference. The judge in the case appointed David-Pitts with a court-appointed attorney in the case and could be facing up to 20 years in prison in the event he’s convicted.
The soon-to-retire Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best also commented on the arrest:
“The intentional fire set Monday evening in an organized, pre-planned attack endangered the lives of our officers and our entire community.
This was not a peaceful protest, or demonstration for equity, but an act of lawlessness. We are grateful our federal partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office recognize the criminal nature of these acts and are holding those responsible accountable.”
According to federal law enforcement sources, David-Pitts had arrived in Seattle three days prior to the arson attack lodged against the SPD building. He was reportedly captured on video gathering debris to set on fire and igniting it over an 11-minute period.
A police spokesperson said protesters were deliberate in their efforts to trap officers inside the East Precinct building before setting fires.
Something of note in the case is that David-Pitts brother was reportedly shot and killed by police in Alaska back in February of this year. This could have possibly been the impetus for said alleged radicalized criminal conduct.
Law enforcement sources say that it took less than an hour to identify David-Pitts that evening, namely due to the pink camouflage pants he was adorning while allegedly setting the fire. He was reportedly arrested without incident.
But it wasn’t just the SPD building that also caught some “heat” on August 24th, it was also the police union building too.
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