Man who served 2 years for torching police precinct during 2020 'autonomous zone' runs for Seattle city council

Isaiah Thomas Willoughby was released in March 2022 following a two-year prison sentence for starting a fire that scorched the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct in the early morning hours of June 12, 2020.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
A man who received a 2-year sentence for setting fire to a Seattle police precinct during the deadly 2020 Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) has filed to run for the Seattle City Council.

Isaiah Thomas Willoughby was released in March 2022 following a two-year prison sentence in conjunction with three years of supervised release for starting a fire outside the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct in the early morning hours of June 12, 2020. Willoughby pleaded guilty to federal arson charges.

The Tacoma native, who has also lived in Seattle, has filed to run in Seattle’s District 2 against Socialist incumbent Tammy Morales.

In 2019, Willoughby ran for city council in District 1 but withdrew from the race before the August primary.

According to the plea agreement, Willoughby was wearing a bright yellow and green hoodie when he was captured on surveillance video near debris piled next to the wall of the Seattle Police East Precinct. Willoughby admitted to using a gas can, to pour gasoline on the debris. He could be seen on video stepping away from the debris pile for a moment, then reappearing with something that he lights on fire and tosses on the debris pile. 

As the debris pile began to burn, Willoughby is seen walking away. According to the Department of Justice, the fire scorched the side of the building, but was extinguished by those nearby using fire extinguishers, and pulled the flaming debris away from the building. 

After the Seattle Police Department released pictures of the arson suspect, people recognized Willoughby and noted that the distinctive sweatshirt came from a clothing line he represented. Relatives of Willoughby reported to police that he was in Seattle inside the autonomous zone at the time of the fire.


Following the fire, Willoughby took steps to remove posts from his social media accounts that linked him to the arson but some of his Facebook posts remained where he demonized police and revealed knowledge of the East Precinct building.

During the BLM and Antifa riots that rocked Seattle in the summer of 2020 following the death of George Floyd, Seattle officials ordered the police to abandon the East Precinct. Rioters seized control of the area including 6 blocks of the Capitol Hill neighborhood and declared the area an “autonomous zone” and off-limits to police.

During the zone’s 3-week existence, rapes, robberies, and murders spiked 250 percent according to the Seattle Police Department.

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