LGBTQ Agenda: Man sentenced in federal hate crime against Seattle LGBTQ nightclub

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday October 10, 2023
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LGBTQ Agenda: Man sentenced in federal hate crime against Seattle LGBTQ nightclub

A Washington state man was sentenced October 3 to four years in prison after being convicted of a federal hate crime in an arson incident three years ago near an LGBTQ nightclub in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood.

As the Bay Area Reporter previously reported, Kalvinn Garcia, 26, of Sedro Woolley, had pleaded guilty February 24 to one count of committing a federal hate crime.

"Mr. Garcia endangered the lives of more than 100 people because of his hatred for members of our LGBTQI+ community," stated Tessa M. Gorman, the acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington, in a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice. "We work diligently with our federal, state, and local partners to investigate and prosecute acts of hatred against people because of their sexuality or gender identity.

"This work is a priority because the effect of these hate crimes can linger in communities and traumatize the members of the targeted community for weeks, months, or years after," Gorman added.

Targeting people based on their sexual orientation has been a federal hate crime since the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed by then-President Barack Obama in 2009, as the B.A.R. previously reported.

According to his guilty plea, on February 24, 2020, Garcia set fire to the contents of a dumpster in an alleyway behind Queer/Bar, a nightclub that also features bar snacks, at 1518 11th Avenue in Seattle in the LGBTQ Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Garcia was arrested a few minutes later, telling police he didn't like seeing a sign that said "queer."

"I think it's wrong that we have a bunch of queers in our society," he reportedly said at the time.

Subsequently, Garcia said to "a stranger" he'd set the fire because he wanted to "trap and hurt" people inside, according to prosecutors.

"Garcia admitted that, through the use of fire, he willfully attempted to cause bodily injury to the occupants of Queer/Bar because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity," the justice department stated.

Kristen Clarke, the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the justice department, stated that she hopes the sentence deters others who want to violate the civil rights of their fellow Americans.

"Bias-motivated violence runs contrary to our values and violates our federal civil rights laws," Clarke stated. "This sentence should send the message that every person in our nation deserves equal protection under the law regardless of who they love or how they identify and that those carrying out similar acts of violence against the LGBTQI+ community will be brought to justice."

This was not Garcia's first encounter with the law, as the B.A.R. reported last year. 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 FBI Seattle Field Office investigated the arson case.

"Mr. Garcia admitted to setting the fire in an effort to hurt people based on his own bias," stated FBI Seattle Field Office Special Agent in Charge Richard A. Collodi. "No person in the United States should fear for their safety based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. I am proud of the continued work of the FBI and our partners in protecting the civil rights of all people."

Garcia had faced a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Garcia was represented by Sara Brin and Corey Endo of the federal public defender's office; neither returned a request for comment for this report. Queer/Bar representatives also did not return a request for comment.

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at [email protected]

A Washington state man was sentenced to four years in prison for a federal hate crime after setting a fire in a dumpster behind Queer/Bar in Seattle in 2020. Photo: Courtesy

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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