A 20-year-old Edmonds man was charged Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle with two counts of arson and two counts of unlawful possession of a destructive device for his activities at a protest that turned violent in downtown Seattle.
Kelly Thomas Jackson was arrested Wednesday morning and was scheduled to appear later in the day in U.S. District Court.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office continues to work closely with state, local and federal law enforcement to prosecute those who turn protected speech into violent criminal conduct,” said U.S. Attorney Brian Moran. “Not every criminal act will implicate a federal interest, but where there is federal jurisdiction we will use our tools to hold law-breakers accountable.”
“These individuals are hijacking legitimate First Amendment protected activity. By investigating this violent activity, the messages of peaceful protests have a better chance of being heard,” said Raymond Duda, Special Agent in Charge FBI Seattle.
According to records filed in the case, following a May 30, 2020, demonstration in downtown Seattle, law enforcement was investigating a number of criminal acts, including the arson of a number of Seattle Police vehicles. Law enforcement has various videos of a white male suspect in distinctive clothing using glass containers with a flammable material and a wick to burn or attempt to burn two police vehicles.
According to a U.S. Attorney’s Office announcement, Jackson was identified as a potential suspect in the case after an anonymous tip to law enforcement. A detailed review of videos from the scene confirmed the suspect resembled Jackson, and a court-authorized analysis of cell phone records placed Jackson in the area at the time of the fires, the announcement said. Jackson was also observed wearing the same distinctive clothing as in the videos.
Finally, additional evidence obtained by law enforcement includes a video of the suspect throwing one Molotov cocktail into a police vehicle, another video of a glass bottle with a wick, and information that Jackson accessed web-based information on how to construct Molotov cocktails. The second Molotov cocktail was thrown at the windshield of a police vehicle, bounced off, and exploded in flames on the sidewalk outside the Nordstrom store.
Arson is punishable by a mandatory minimum five years in prison and up to 20 years in prison. Possession of a destructive device is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF).