Video footage shows a male suspect throwing what appears to be a glass bottle with an ignited fabric or paper wick (i.e., a “Molotov cocktail” device) through the open driver’s side door of a police vehicle. (U.S. Department of Justice)

Video footage shows a male suspect throwing what appears to be a glass bottle with an ignited fabric or paper wick (i.e., a “Molotov cocktail” device) through the open driver’s side door of a police vehicle. (U.S. Department of Justice)

Edmonds man, 20, charged with arson during Seattle protest

He’s accused of tossing Molotov cocktails at two police vehicles during a May demonstration.

EDMONDS — An Edmonds man, charged Wednesday in U.S. District Court with two counts of arson and two more of possessing an unlawful destructive device, is accused of trying to set two police vehicles on fire during a May 30 protest in Seattle.

Kelly Thomas Jackson, 20, was arrested Wednesday and was scheduled to appear in a federal courtroom in Seattle later in the day. He’s accused of tossing Molotov cocktails into one Seattle police car and at another.

On May 30, a photograph was taken, depicting Kelly Jackson wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and a patterned head covering consistent with the distinctive items worn by an arsonist the same day. (U.S. Department of Justice)

On May 30, a photograph was taken, depicting Kelly Jackson wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and a patterned head covering consistent with the distinctive items worn by an arsonist the same day. (U.S. Department of Justice)

The allegations are included in a 23-page complaint written by an FBI special agent assigned to investigate domestic terrorism.

In one instance, Jackson’s accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail inside a patrol car, an unmarked 2017 Ford Explorer with emergency lights, police radios and other law enforcement equipment inside.

“After the bottle entered (the vehicle), flames spread rapidly, almost instantaneously, through the passenger compartment,” according to court papers. That vehicle was parked on Pine Street near Fifth Avenue.

Jackson is also accused of throwing a second Molotov cocktail at the windshield of another police vehicle, a 2016 Ford Explorer. It bounced off and exploded in flames on the sidewalk outside the downtown Seattle Nordstrom store.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office continues to work closely with state, local and federal law enforcement to prosecute those who turn protected speech into violent criminal conduct,” U.S. Attorney Brian Moran said in a news release. “Not every criminal act will implicate a federal interest, but where there is federal jurisdiction we will use our tools to hold law-breakers accountable.”

“These individuals are hijacking legitimate First Amendment protected activity,” said Raymond Duda, special agent in charge of the FBI Seattle office, in the news release. “By investigating this violent activity, the messages of peaceful protests have a better chance of being heard.”

The complaint said the FBI has video of a white suspect in a gas mask, ski goggles and distinctive clothing using glass containers with a flammable material and a wick to burn or attempt to burn two police vehicles. Jackson was identified as a potential suspect after an anonymous tip to law enforcement.

As agents conducted surveillance on Jackson over the summer, they took a July 2 photograph of him outside a convenience store in what appears to be a sweatshirt with the same design and logo as the protester throwing the Molotov cocktails. The tipster also said the suspect stole a gas mask from his employer, a Mountlake Terrace plumbing company.

A court-authorized analysis of cellphone records placed Jackson in the area at the time of the fires.

Federal agents say they believe Jackson accessed web-based information on how to construct Molotov cocktails, and his iCloud account included several files documenting his participation in the demonstrations.

Arson is punishable by a mandatory minimum five years in prison and up to 20 years in prison. Possession of a destructive device is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The case is being investigated by the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives with assistance from the Seattle, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace police departments.

Eric Stevick: stevick@heraldnet.com.

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