Story at a glance
- A 25-year-old Washington man has pleaded guilty to a hate crime in connection with a 2020 incident outside an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Seattle.
- Kalvinn Garcia said he set fire to the contents of a dumpster in an alleyway behind Queer/Bar in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood in 2020 with the intent of trapping and harming the patrons inside.
- Garcia faces up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine totaling $250,000. His sentencing is set for late September.
A Washington man has pleaded guilty to committing a hate crime for arson at a Seattle-area gay bar, the Justice Department said this week.
Kalvinn Garcia, 25, of Sedro Woolley, Wash., on Thursday admitted to setting fire to the contents of a dumpster in an alleyway behind Queer/Bar, a known LGBTQ+ nightclub and event space, in Seattle in 2020. Garcia, who was arrested just minutes after setting the fire, said he targeted the establishment because it had a sign outside that said “queer.”
“I think it’s wrong that we have a bunch of queers in our society,” Garcia told law enforcement officials. Weeks after the incident, he told a stranger that his intent in setting the fire was to trap and harm the people inside the building, the Justice Department said Thursday in a news release.
“Garcia endangered countless people who he did not know and who were simply trying to live their lives, solely because of his own hatred,” U.S. Attorney Nick Brown for the Western District of Washington said Thursday in a statement. “We must stand up to this hate at every opportunity, to demonstrate to our community that acting on hate will not be tolerated.”
Garcia faces a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, according to the Justice Department. His sentencing is scheduled for September 20.
Garcia according to court documents set fire to the dumpster behind Queer/Bar around 9 p.m. on February 24, 2020. At the time, the nightclub shared the alleyway with the Seattle Police Department East Precinct, which was famously abandoned later that year during citywide protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Flames from Garcia’s fire quickly crawled up the side of the bar, where more than 50 people had been attending an event, the Justice Department said last year, citing surveillance footage from the East Precinct. The fire attracted “immediate attention,” the department said.
Following his arrest, Garcia reportedly told Seattle Police Department Detective Scott Kawahara that he had recently become homeless, which he blamed on LGBTQ+ people, according to court documents.
“Hate crimes have no place in our society today and we stand ready to use our federal civil rights laws to hold perpetrators accountable,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said Thursday in a statement. “All people deserve to feel safe and secure living in their communities, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”