SEATTLE, Wash., November 14, 2023—Kalvinn Garcia, 26, of Sedro Woolley, was sentenced on October 3 in federal court to 48 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for committing a hate crime in connection with a bias-motivated arson at Queer/Bar, a nightclub and event space in downtown Seattle.
Arson is punishable by a minimum term of imprisonment of five years and a maximum term of twenty years, and a maximum fine of $250,000. There were more than 50 people in the club and its event room at the time of the fire. The blaze scorched the brick exterior and forced the cancelation of events planned at the nightclub over subsequent days.
According to facts admitted in his guilty plea, on February 24, 2020, Garcia set fire to the contents of a dumpster in the alley directly behind Queer/Bar. He was arrested only minutes after setting the fire and as seen on surveillance video in the alley behind Queer/Bar on the night the blaze was set in a dumpster next to the building. Officers observed Garcia a short distance away. Garcia tried to run from officers but was apprehended.
Garcia admitted to law enforcement that he set the fire and that he targeted Queer/Bar because it angered him to see a sign that said “queer” and also told officers, “I think it’s wrong that we have a bunch of queers in our society.”
A few weeks after the incident, Garcia told a stranger that his intent in setting the fire was to trap and hurt the people inside. 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 defendant committed an act of violence targeting innocent victims 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. “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 Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman 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.”
“Mr. Garcia admitted to setting the fire in an effort to hurt people based on his own bias,” said Special Agent in Charge Richard A. Collodi of the FBI Seattle Field Office. “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.”
The FBI Seattle Field Office and the Seattle Police Department investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Will Dreher for the Western District of Washington and Trial Attorney Matthew Tannenbaum of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section prosecuted the case.
For more information and resources about the department’s work to combat hate crimes, visit www.justice.gov/hatecrimes.
Photo Credit: Queer/Bar Facebook page