A Washington state man who objected to “a bunch of queers in our society” pleaded guilty Thursday to a hate crime after having set a fire two years ago in a trash bin next to a Seattle gay bar in hopes of harming the bar’s patrons.
Kalvinn Garcia, 25, of Sedro-Wooley, Wash., admitted to anti-LGBTQ+ intent, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice. He was arrested minutes after starting the fire outside Queer/Bar on February 24, 2020, and he told police he set the blaze because the sign with the word “queer” made him angry. “I think it’s wrong that we have a bunch of queers in our society,” he told the officers. He later told a random stranger he wanted to trap the people inside and injure them, the DOJ states.
The flames spread from the trash bin to an exterior wall of the building housing Queer/Bar. There were about 50 people in the bar at the time, but they were evacuated safely. The situation could have been deadly. Until the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, which took the lives of 49 people, the worst mass killing in an LGBTQ+ space was an arson fire at the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans in 1973. Thirty-two people died in the fire.
Garcia entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Seattle. He will be sentenced in September. The maximum sentence for the crime is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the Seattle Police Department and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Cohen and Trial Attorney Angie Cha of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
“The defendant targeted the patrons inside Queer/Bar, a known safe space for the LGBTQI+ community,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in the press release. “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.”
“Garcia endangered countless people who he did not know and who were simply trying to live their lives, solely because of his own hatred,” added Nick Brown, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington. “We must stand up to this hate at every opportunity, to demonstrate to our community that acting on hate will not be tolerated.”
“Garcia’s hateful act endangered and spread fear in the LGBTQ+ community and caused damage to this business establishment,” said Donald M. Voiret, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office. “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.”