Video footage shows a male suspect throwing what appears to be a Molotov cocktail through the open driver’s side door of a police vehicle in Seattle on May 30, 2020. (U.S. Department of Justice)

Video footage shows a male suspect throwing what appears to be a Molotov cocktail through the open driver’s side door of a police vehicle in Seattle on May 30, 2020. (U.S. Department of Justice)

Prison for Edmonds man who threw Molotov cocktails

A judge sentenced Kelly Jackson, 21, to more than three years for his actions at a Seattle protest last year.

EDMONDS — An Edmonds man has been sentenced to more than three years in prison after admitting he tried to set fire to two police vehicles during a protest last May in Seattle.

Kelly Thomas Jackson, 21, was arrested in September and charged with tossing Molotov cocktails into one Seattle police car and at another.

At a sentencing hearing Monday morning in Seattle, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart noted the danger to bystanders given that the police cars were loaded with gasoline and potentially weapons.

“The public’s right to peacefully protest has been repeatedly violated by people doing criminal things,” he said.

Robart handed down a 40-month sentence and will require three years of supervised release. Jackson pleaded guilty in January to two counts of unlawful possession of destructive devices.

The case against Jackson was described in a 23-page complaint written by an FBI special agent assigned to investigate domestic terrorism.

In one instance, Jackson was 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.

On May 30, 2020, 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, 2020, 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)

“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.

The other charge accused Jackson 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.

Law enforcement authorities identified Jackson through photos taken during the protest and an anonymous tip. 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.

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.

An analysis of cellphone records placed Jackson in the area at the time of the fires. Law enforcement obtained videos that showed Jackson traveling into Seattle with at least one of the glass bottles with a wick. Other videos showed Jackson throwing a Molotov cocktail into a police vehicle, then hiding himself in the crowd and jumping up and down with excitement after his crime.

“Unlike the vast majority of demonstrators who came to downtown Seattle to protest peacefully against systemic racism, this defendant came armed with Molotov cocktails — intent on dangerous destruction,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman. “The danger to others is captured in pictures from the scene: flames from the burning car and burning gasoline spread across the sidewalk, pollutant-filled smoke billowing into the crowd. This isn’t free speech — it is criminal conduct deserving of a federal prison sentence.”

The case was investigated by the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives with assistance from the Seattle Police Department, the Edmonds Police Department and the Mountlake Terrace Police Department.

Eric Stevick:

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