A 20-year-old Alaskan man pleaded guilty Monday to setting a fire in the East Precinct of the Seattle Police Department last August, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the western district of Washington.
Desmond David-Pitts, who told authorities he was in Seattle to take part in racial justice demonstrations, reportedly started the fire in downtown Seattle during a protest on August 24, according to a statement by the federal prosecutor on Monday.
In a complaint filed in late August, prosecutors said surveillance cameras showed David-Pitt tossing garbage bags into a Sally Port area of the county and setting them on fire with a lighter. After David-Pitts initially denied having lit the fire, he later admitted it during an interview, according to a complaint.
While David-Pitts lit the fire, surveillance videos show others trying to block a door next to Sally Port with crowbars and “cementitious materials” “to prevent officers from leaving the building,” the statement said Monday.
David-Pitts is also seen cutting through a chain link fence surrounding the district, prosecutors said.
Officers could go outside and put out the flames, the statement said. Seattle Fire Department crews also responded to the scene to put out the fire.
David-Pitts’ attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night.
The August 24 event was organized to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Approximately 200 to 250 people gathered and marched from the East Precinct on Capitol Hill to the West Precinct near South Lake Union and back to the East Precinct, where people threw fireworks at the district and set fire to outside the building.
David-Pitts also participated in protests against police brutality in Alaska last year after his 16-year-old brother was killed by police in Anchorage, according to news reports. Police said the 16-year-old had fired a gun at police officers. David-Pitts questioned the police reports.
Shortly after the East Precinct fire, he was identified without incident, arrested and sent to King County Jail. He has since agreed to pay a refund to the Seattle Police Department for damage to the building, the statement said Monday.
David-Pitts faces a prison sentence of up to five years for arson conspiracy and is sentenced on April 27 by US District Judge John Coughenour.
Seattle Times employee reporter Heidi Groover contributed to this story.