Man charged in federal court for arson at LGBTQ club in Washington


24-year-old Kalvinn Jay Garcia was charged with arson for starting a fire at an LGBTQ club in Seattle, prosecutors said.

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A Washington man has been charged with arson in connection with a fire at a popular LGBTQ club in Seattle last spring.

Case filings say that 24-year-old Kalvinn Jay Garcia was seen on surveillance video near Queer/Bar in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood on Feb. 24, 2020. Video from neighboring businesses and the police precinct across the street show Garcia near a dumpster that contained a fire, according to a news release from the Department of Justice, Western District of Washington.

The flames spread from the dumpster to Queer/Bar, where they climbed up the walls toward the second floor of the club. There were more than 50 people on the second floor at the time, according to the release.

Garcia was seen on video trying to run from officers, but he was quickly apprehended, the release said. He was originally charged in the King County Superior Court with arson and a hate crime, but was released from jail because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A probable cause statement says that he “did maliciously damage and destroy, and attempt to damage and destroy” the bar. The statement alleges that Garcia set fire to the contents of the large recycling dumpster next to Queer/Bar and then left as the fire continued to grow, though he looked back at the fire several times.

The club shares an alley with several other businesses and the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct. Garcia’s actions were captured on video by police, Queer/Bar and other businesses, court documents said.

Court documents also said that, prior to setting the dumpster on fire, Garcia could be seen smoking a cigarette and looking upward at the second floor of the bar, which was “brightly lit with pink uplighting” and where people were attending a party event with music and singing.

When Garcia was apprehended, he told officers that he was homeless at the time and blamed the LGBTQ community for his circumstances, using homophobic insults to describe them. He also described the community as “disgusting” and said he wanted to take his frustration at his circumstances out on something, so he started the dumpster fire instead of directing his anger toward “a bunch of queers,” court documents said. Garcia told police that he was not intoxicated or impaired at the time.

The bar sustained damage to its brick exterior, which required repairs. All of the bar’s customers and event attendees had to evacuate the building because of the fire, and the business noticed a drop in patronage in the following days, court documents said.

Garcia originally faced both hate crime and arson charges, but only faces arson charges at the federal level, Capitol Hill Seattle reported.

“Arson is punishable by a minimum term of imprisonment of five years and a maximum term of twenty years, and a maximum fine of $250,000.00,” the DOJ said in the release.

Garcia was indicted on the arson charge in January and had his initial court appearance in Seattle on Friday, Nov. 12. He will appear in court for a detention hearing on Nov. 17 and will have a jury trial on Jan. 18, 2022.

The case is being investigated by the FBI and the Seattle Police Department, the DOJ said.

Vandana Ravikumar is a McClatchy Real-Time reporter. She grew up in northern Nevada and studied journalism and political science at Arizona State University. Previously, she reported for USA Today, The Dallas Morning News, and Arizona PBS.

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