Arson suspect may have been plotting ‘terrorist activity,’ police say
A Capitol Hill man charged in connection with an arson inside a crowded nightclub on New Year’s Eve might have also been plotting some sort of terrorist activity, according to police documents.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A man accused of setting a fire inside a crowded Capitol Hill gay nightclub on New Year’s Eve might have also been plotting some unspecified “terrorist activity,” according to Seattle police documents.
A friend of Musab Musmari’s contacted the FBI in early January to say that he was concerned that Musmari “may be planning some terrorist activity,” according to search-warrant documents filed in King County Superior Court. The friend, who was not identified by authorities, worked as a confidential informant for the FBI and Seattle police after the fire, the documents say.
On Tuesday, Musmari pleaded not guilty to a first-degree-arson charge after police say he set a fire at Neighbours, which bills itself as the city’s largest and longest-running gay club. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.
The friend also told investigators that Musmari, on a number of occasions, expressed his “distaste for homosexual people,” the search warrant said.
The friend “related one such conversation in which Musmari opined that homosexuals should be exterminated,” the warrant paperwork said.
Seattle police did not indicate in the warrant the type of terrorist activity the friend accused Musmari of participating in. Musmari has not been charged federally with any terrorist-related crimes.
Police say that Musmari avoided a security check at Neighbours by entering an adjacent bar called Therapy Lounge. He then passed through an interior door between the bars into the two-floor dance club and was seen on surveillance footage walking around with an object that appeared large enough to contain a one-gallon gas can, according to charging documents.
Musmari allegedly fled the club within seconds of flames first appearing on the footage, the papers say. Club patrons and a bartender quickly doused the blaze with a fire extinguisher.
There were more than 700 people inside the club that night, authorities said.
Police released grainy surveillance photos of the suspect in January, and several people called in tips to police, including the friend named in the warrant, according to the charges in the arson case.
Days before his arrest, Musmari — who also goes by the surnames Masmari and Al Masmari — booked a one-way flight to Turkey. Police say he was arrested as he was preparing to leave for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Musmari was born in California, but his family returned to Libya when he was an infant; he returned to the United States permanently in 2009, according to charging paperwork filed in the arson case.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.