Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said Monday that investigators in her department determined a 23-year-old man had been mistakenly identified in the throwing of a Molotov cocktail.
King County prosecutors have dismissed a felony charge of assaulting a police officer brought against a Seattle man who was mistakenly accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail during this year’s May Day anti-capitalist march.
In court papers filed Friday, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office cited evidentiary reasons in dismissing a third-degree assault charge filed May 4 against Wesley Nielsen, 23.
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said Monday that investigators in her department determined Nielsen had been mistakenly identified and are now looking to identify the man who actually threw the bottle.
Seattle police released two photographs Monday, asking for the public’s help in identifying a man described as a “person of interest” in the throwing of the Molotov cocktail.
Most Read Local Stories
- Third La Niña winter might be headed for Seattle
- These areas of WA are likely to get hotter — but people keep moving there
- Woman killed by Seattle light-rail train stumbled and fell, police say
- Seattle heats up this week, but it'll be 'nothing like we saw in July'
- In race for Herrera Beutler's seat, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez focuses on Democratic and Republican voters
A SWAT officer was about 50 yards away when he picked Nielsen out of the crowd. “What drew my attention to Wesley was the fact that he was tall (and) his hair was up on top of his head in a ‘man bun’ type hair style,” the officer’s report said.
The officer saw Nielsen throw a bottle, which exploded at the officers’ feet, according to the charging documents. He then tried to filter back into the crowd, undoing his man bun as he walked, according to the documents.
The SWAT officer pointed Nielsen out, and two bike officers quickly arrested him, charging papers said.
Police reports noted the Molotov cocktails were filled with a liquid that smelled like gasoline and had a white cloth sticking out of the tops.
Nielsen spent about three days in a jail before being released May 4 on $20,000 bail.
Assistant Police Chief Robert Merner, who oversees investigations, said Monday that investigators reviewed video that made them realize Nielsen didn’t throw the Molotov cocktail.
Nielsen’s father contacted police within days of his son’s arrest and provided video to The Seattle Times on May 5 that raised questions about Nielson’s involvement.
The video, posted on YouTube by an observer, showed Nielson marching in the crowd, with another man behind him of similar appearance and wearing similar clothing. That man had his hair in a bun, while Nielson maintained he did not, according to an email in which Nielsen described the events.
Seattle Police Lt. Eric Barden said Monday that by the time the father contacted police, investigators who had reviewed volumes of video and photographs had independently flagged the potential of mistaken identity.
Prosecutors were then advised of the issue, Barden said, noting Nielsen had been released from jail.
Barden said police do not have video of the Molotov cocktail being thrown.
Nielson was one of two protesters charged with felony third-degree assault on Seattle police officers. The other was accused of biting a plainclothes detective.
The Seattle City Attorney’s Office has been reviewing several other cases for possible misdemeanor charges.