Man accused of setting fire to East Precinct during CHOP occupation faces federal arson charge

SEATTLE — A 35-year-old Tacoma man was arrested Tuesday on a federal arson charge after police say he set fire to the outside of the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct during the occupied protest known as “CHOP.”

U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran said in a news release that Isaiah Thomas Willoughby was taken into custody without incident in Seattle.

Willoughby is expected to make his first appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Wednesday. Arson is punishable by a mandatory minimum five years in prison and up to 20 years in prison.

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“This is the third case we have charged federally for the criminal acts that tainted otherwise peaceful protests.  Other crimes remain under investigation and may result in additional federal charges,” Moran said. “Those who worked to turn protests into riots will not escape accountability for their criminal conduct.” 

In a criminal complaint, officials said surveillance video captured a man setting fire to debris piled next to the wall of the East Precinct early in the morning on June 12.

Officials said the video shows the man walking away as the pile burns. The fire burned the side of the building, but the blaze was put out by people in the area who had fire extinguishers.

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Police released pictures of the suspect, and officials said people recognized him as Willoughby, noting a distinctive sweatshirt from a clothing line he represents.

Willoughby’s relatives told police he was in the CHOP zone at the time of the arson, officials said.

After the arson, officials said Willoughby took steps to remove posts from his social media accounts. However, some of his Facebook posts remained up, and officials said they noted “his anger at police and his knowledge of the East Precinct building.

“We support every American’s right to protest,” said Mickey French acting special agent in charge with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Seattle Field Division. “But when someone turns to an act of violence, putting many lives in danger, ATF will work to ensure he or she is held accountable.”