SEATTLE (AP) — A federal judge sentenced a 20-year-old Alaska man Monday to 20 months in prison for trying to set fire to a Seattle police precinct during last summer’s racial justice protests — less than half the prison time sought by prosecutors.
Desmond David-Pitts, of Anchorage, pleaded guilty to a federal arson conspiracy charge in January, acknowledging he set a fire to trash piled outside an East Precinct sally-port door late on Aug. 24 while others tried to bar a door to keep officers from leaving.
David-Pitts was identified and arrested within an hour, thanks in part to his distinctive pink-camouflage pants. He told investigators he had had bad experiences with police and that he was angry.
“A handful of people bent on destruction, by committing arson and threatening the safety of our community, also drowned out the important message of those who peacefully protest injustice,” Acting Seattle U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman said in a news release after the sentencing.
David-Pitts had arrived in Seattle just a few days earlier, amid months of demonstrations that followed the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
He was seen on surveillance video speaking with black-clad participants who used a metal rod and quick-drying cement try to bar the door, and who tried to set other fires at the building. Police nevertheless managed to get outside and join Seattle firefighters in extinguishing the fires.
Prosecutors acknowledged that David-Pitts had suffered mistreatment as a child and that he had mental health and substance abuse issues. But they asked U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour for a sentence of just under four years, saying they had already shown leniency by reaching a plea deal that helped David-Pitts avoid a five-year mandatory minimum.