A 20-year-old Alaska man pleaded guilty Monday to helping set a fire at the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct last August, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.

Desmond David-Pitts, who told authorities he was visiting Seattle to join racial justice demonstrations here, allegedly set the fire during an Aug. 24 protest in downtown Seattle, according to a Monday statement from federal prosecutors.

In a complaint filed in late August, federal prosecutors said surveillance-camera footage shows David-Pitts tossing trash bags into a sally-port area at the precinct and using a lighter to set them on fire. After initially denying he set the fire, David-Pitts later admitted to it during an interview, according to the complaint.

While David-Pitts was lighting the fire, surveillance footage shows others attempting to use crowbars and “cement-like materials” to block a door next to the sally-port “to prevent officers from exiting the building,” the Monday statement said.

David-Pitts is also seen cutting through a chain-link fence that surrounded the precinct, prosecutors said.

Officers were able to get outside and extinguish the flames, the statement said. Seattle Fire Department crews also responded to the scene to douse the fire.


David-Pitts’ attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday evening.

The Aug. 24 event was organized to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. About 200 to 250 people gathered, marching 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 precinct and set fires 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 Anchorage police, according to news reports. Police said the 16-year-old fired a gun at officers; David-Pitts questioned the police narrative, according to the reports. 

He was identified, arrested and booked into King County Jail without incident shortly after the East Precinct fire. He’s since agreed to pay restitution to the Seattle Police Department for damage to the building, the Monday statement said.

David-Pitts faces up to five years in prison on the conspiracy to commit arson charge and will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge John Coughenour on April 27.

Seattle Times staff reporter Heidi Groover contributed to this story.