Federal prosecutors are charging 19-year-old Desmond David-Pitts of Anchorage with arson for setting a fire at the Seattle Police Department East Precinct on Monday night, while officers were inside.
Desmond David-Pitts was arrested Tuesday morning and was subsequently transferred to federal custody.
The Department of Justice report says he tossed trash bags into a sally-port area at the precinct and used a lighter to torch them. David-Pitts has admitted to it in an interview, according to the Department of Justice.
David-Pitts is part of the Black Lives Matter movement in Anchorage, and is a well-known outspoken protester for months. He testified in front of the Anchorage Assembly about police brutality earlier this summer, dropping the “F bomb,” and several other curse words.
An Anchorage police officer shot and killed his younger brother, 16-year-old Daelyn Polu, in February. The shooting was in self-defense after someone in Polu’s car fired shots at the police; one of the bullets hit an officer’s badge and buried itself into his Kevlar vest.
The shooting of Daelyn Polu has been a rallying cry at every Black Lives Matter event in Anchorage this summer, and the family wants to reopen the case. Now, Daelyn’s older brother is involved in trying to lock Seattle police inside their precinct and burning it down.
“This is the fourth defendant to appear in federal court after being charged with criminal conduct that went far beyond any peaceful protest,” said U.S. Attorney Brian Moran. “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.”
“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,” said Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best.
According to the complaint, David-Pitts had arrived in Seattle from Alaska three days before Monday’s protest.
After marching with the group in downtown Seattle, he was 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 him repeatedly lighting it on fire and feeding the flames with more trash bags and cardboard.
While he was lighting the fire, other people who appeared on the surveillance camera 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 on the video David-Pitts appeared to be communicating with the others. Despite the rioters’ efforts to cement the door shut, officers were able to get outside and extinguish the flames, which had grown to 10 feet high.
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.
David-Pitts was identified less than an hour later in the crowd outside the precinct because of the pink camouflage trousers he was wearing.
Arson is punishable by a mandatory minimum five years in prison and up to twenty years in prison. The case is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives and the Seattle Police Department. David-Pitts is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg.