Justice

Arsonist who attacked a queer nightclub sentenced to four years in prison

A Washington man was sentenced to four years in prison for attempting to set fire to a queer bar with patrons inside. After his arrest, the arsonist said that seeing the word “queer” on the bar’s sign made him angry. “I think it’s wrong that we have a bunch of queers in our society,” he told officers.

In February 2020, Kalvinn Garcia—a 26-year-old man from Sedro Woolley, Washington—set fire to a dumpster behind Seattle nightclub Queer/Bar. The nightclub was safely evacuated with no injuries. Weeks after the incident, Garcia reportedly told a stranger that it was his intention to trap and harm the occupants.

Garcia was arrested minutes after setting the fire, and in his recent trial, he pleaded guilty to arson and hate crime charges. On October 3, the Justice Department announced that a federal court sentenced him to four years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

Per the Civil Rights Act of 1968, hate crimes involving fire can carry up to a ten-year sentence. While it’s not immediately clear why Garcia received only 48 months, prosecutors praised the verdict.

“The defendant committed an act of violence targeting innocent victims inside Queer/Bar, a known safe space for the LGBTQI+ community,” Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said.

“Bias-motivated violence runs contrary to our values and violates our federal civil rights laws. 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.”

“Mr. Garcia endangered the lives of more than 100 people because of his hatred for members of our LGBTQI+ community,” said Tessa M Gorman, Attorney for the Western District of Washington. “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.”

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