Man pleads guilty to hate crime in fire outside Seattle gay bar

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Friday May 27, 2022
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A man pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime for setting a fire in a dumpster behind Queer/Bar in Seattle in 2020. Photo: Courtesy<br><br>
A man pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime for setting a fire in a dumpster behind Queer/Bar in Seattle in 2020. Photo: Courtesy

Twenty-seven months after he set fire to a dumpster behind a Seattle gay bar, Kalvinn Garcia has pleaded guilty to one count of committing a federal hate crime.

According to a news release issued May 26 by the United States Department of Justice, on February 24, 2020, Garcia, 25, of Sedro Woolley, Washington, set fire to the contents of a dumpster behind Queer/Bar, a popular club in Capitol Hill, Seattle's LGBTQ neighborhood. Garcia was arrested only minutes after setting the blaze, telling police "that he set the fire and that he targeted Queer/Bar because it angered him to see a sign that said 'queer,'" according to the release.

"I think it's wrong that we have a bunch of queers in our society," he added, according to the release. A few weeks later, the DOJ reported, "Garcia told a stranger that his intent in setting the fire was to trap and hurt the people inside."

This was not Garcia's first encounter with the law. A case search on the Washington state courts website revealed his being the defendant in eight criminal felony cases in his home county of Skagit, in southwestern Washington, prior to 2020 and dating back to July 2015. Each of those cases has since been closed.

"The defendant targeted the patrons inside Queer/Bar, a known safe space for the LGBTQI+ community," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. "Hate crimes have no place in our society today and we stand ready to use our federal civil rights laws to hold perpetrators accountable. All people deserve to feel safe and secure living in their communities, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

Special Agent in Charge Donald Voiret, with the FBI Seattle Field Office, said Garcia's actions caused alarm in the Capitol Hill community.

"Garcia's hateful act endangered and spread fear in the LGBTQ+ community and caused damage to this business establishment," stated Voiret. "Fortunately, our partners at the Seattle Police Department were able to respond quickly to this arson. This case shows our commitment to investigating civil rights violations with our partners."

Garcia faces a maximum sentence of 10 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Queer/Bar did not answer a phone call seeking comment Friday. Its website indicates it opens at 5 p.m.

The case was investigated by the FBI and the Seattle Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Cohen and trial attorney Angie Cha of the Civil Rights Division.

The State of California offers help for victims or witnesses to a hate crime or hate incident. This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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