A 21-year-old Edmonds man is released for more than three years in federal prison and three years under custody if he gets out after pleading guilty to two police cars with Molotov cocktails during protests in downtown Seattle against racism and police violence to have lit this summer.
Kelly Thomas Jackson was identified on video and by witnesses as the person who threw the incendiary devices on May 30th as thousands gathered downtown to peacefully protest the May 25th murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police .
Some in the crowd threw objects at the police, who responded with pepper spray and tear gas. Five police cars were burned and companies looted and ransacked. Thomas was arrested a few days later after being identified in a surveillance video based on unique clothing and other identifying marks, police said.
While imposing a 40-month sentence, US District Judge James Robart said Thomas’s actions disrupted and undermined the legal, peaceful protests.
“The public right to peaceful protest has been violated repeatedly by people doing criminal things.” Robart added that it was very dangerous for people in the area to throw a Molotov cocktail on police cars laden with gasoline and possibly firearms.
“Unlike the vast majority of protesters who came to downtown Seattle to peacefully protest systemic racism, this defendant was armed with Molotov cocktails with the intent of dangerous destruction,” said Tessa Gorman, incumbent US official Attorney for the Western District of Washington, in a statement. “The danger to others is captured in pictures of the scene: flames from the burning car and burning gasoline spread on the sidewalk, smoke filled with pollutants rises in the crowd. This is not free speech – it is criminal behavior that deserves a federal penalty. “
Jackson was identified as a suspect by an anonymous tipster, US prosecutors said.
In a memorandum seeking a more lenient two-year prison sentence, Jackson’s attorney Robert Goldsmith stated that Jackson has bipolar disorder and has problems with substance abuse but has never been in trouble. The memo states that Jackson still lives with his parents and kept a job to pay his legal fees. Goldschmied handed in a number of letters from neighbors and parishioners asking for indulgence.
Gorman said analysis of cell phone records brought Jackson to the area at the time of the fires, and police obtained surveillance video showing Jackson traveling to Seattle with at least one glass bottle with a wick. Other videos show Jackson throwing a Molotov cocktail into a police vehicle, then hiding in the crowd, and then partying while the car burns. Another video shows the second Molotov cocktail being thrown on the windshield of a police vehicle, ricocheting and exploding in flames on the sidewalk in front of the Nordstrom flagship store downtown, US prosecutors said.
A review of Jackson’s internet activity revealed that he had accessed information online about making Molotov cocktails, Gorman’s office said.
Jackson pleaded guilty to two instances of possession of a destructive device on January 6, 2021.