SEATTLE — A 25-year-old Tacoma woman was arrested Thursday morning on five federal counts of arson after police say she set five Seattle police vehicles on fire as protests turned violent in downtown Seattle on May 30.
U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran said in a news release that Margaret Aislinn Channon was taken into custody without incident at her Tacoma home.
Channon is expected to appear in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Friday. Arson is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
“This defendant was captured by multiple cameras using an accelerant, lit like a blowtorch, to start fires in five vehicles -- putting the public at risk and creating the very real possibility of a structure fire amidst the throng of people protesting downtown,” Moran said in a news release. “I commend the painstaking work of law enforcement using a variety of images to identify the defendant and locate her so she can be held accountable.”
Officials said, investigators from the FBI, the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Seattle Police Department reviewed videos taken of the arsons May 30 and of a protest held May 29.
Investigators said Channon appeared in videos from both days and said tattoos on her hands and arms were clearly visible.
After reviewing her social media accounts, investigators said they confirmed her identity.
Officials said they executed a search warrant at her home, confirmed her tattoos and seized clothes and accessories seen in some of the videos of the arsons.
“The number one mission of the FBI is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States. The First Amendment guarantees Americans the right to express their opinions and peacefully protest. What it does not provide is the right to invoke violence under the guise of free speech,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Raymond Duda of the Seattle Field Office. “In cooperation with our partners, we will work tirelessly to identify, investigate, and prevent individuals who are inciting violence, and coordinate with the United States Attorney's Office to address any federal violations.”
ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Blais also released the following statement about the arrest:
“ATF is the Federal agency primarily responsible for administering and enforcing the criminal and regulatory provisions of the Federal laws pertaining to arson. Arson is a crime of violence. While we stand by every American’s Constitutional right to protest, when someone turns to violence, we will work tirelessly to investigate their crimes. We are working shoulder-to-shoulder with our local, state and federal partners to bring those responsible for actions such as this to justice.”
The FBI also has a link where people can submit information related to their investigation of the recent downtown violence.