Man held in club arson may have been trying to leave U.S.
Musab Musmari had $342 in cash, passports, and a one-way plane ticket to Turkey when police arrested him in connection with a New Year’s Eve arson at a Capitol Hill nightclub.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Musab Musmari had $342 in cash, U.S. and Libyan passports, and a one-way plane ticket to Turkey when Seattle police arrested him Saturday afternoon in connection with a New Year’s Eve arson at a Capitol Hill nightclub, according to police.
On Monday, Musmari waived his first appearance before King County District Court Judge Arthur Chapman, who found probable cause to hold the 30-year-old on investigation of first-degree arson. Because an Arabic interpreter wasn’t available Monday, Chapman set over Musmari’s bail hearing until Tuesday.
Musmari is also to appear in Seattle Municipal Court on Tuesday morning for a review hearing related to an earlier, unrelated assault conviction, according to the City Attorney’s Office. He also has a Feb. 18 Municipal Court date on an obstruction charge for an incident in June, court records show.
Court records show that Musmari also goes by the surname Masmari.
A former girlfriend and another woman were each granted protection orders against Musmari for alleged stalking and harassing behavior, according to court records.
Musmari was identified as a suspect in the Neighbours arson after several people called in tips to police, who had released grainy surveillance photos to the media in January, according to the probable-cause statement outlining the police case against him.
“Numerous callers said the person looks like Musab Masmari and one caller said he was sure it was him,” says the statement.
Surveillance cameras at Neighbours — which bills itself as the city’s largest and longest-running gay club — captured images of a man carrying an object “which appears large enough and heavy enough” to contain a filled 1-gallon gas can, according to the statement.
He was first seen on the footage at 11:30 p.m. and walked around both floors of the club, including the east stairwell where he was seen 13 seconds before the fire was discovered and patrons doused the flames with a fire extinguisher, according to the statement.
A 1-gallon plastic gas can, about two-thirds full of gasoline, was left behind at the top of the stairs, the statement says. The man on the video footage appears to be carrying his jacket and walking hurriedly toward the club’s Broadway exit, it says.
No one was hurt in the fire, but the club was evacuated after the sprinkler system activated.
Detectives learned Musmari had a one-way ticket to Turkey, with his flight departing Saturday. He was arrested just after 2:30 p.m. as he was leaving a house in Bellevue, presumably on his way to the airport, the statement says.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is also looking into the arson to determine whether federal charges may be appropriate. For instance, federal prosecutors could take the case if it is determined the motive was because the club caters to gays.
“We are working closely with the locals and King County in this case to determine whether federal or state charges are appropriate,” said Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan. “No federal charges have been filed yet, but no final decision has been made.”
In court Monday, a man who identified himself as Mr. Ludwick said he met Musmari three weeks ago in Seattle’s Central District and was letting Musmari stay in a room in his late father’s house in Bellevue.
“He told me he had issues with people in multiple bars on Capitol Hill,” Ludwick said.
Musmari, who was working at a gas station, also confided he “had a problem” with alcohol, Ludwick said.
Ludwick said he doesn’t believe Musmari had any malice toward gays given his many comments about friends who are gay and parties he had attended on Capitol Hill with gay people.
In September 2011, a former girlfriend of Musmari’s was granted a domestic-violence protection order after breaking up with him, court records show.
She alleged Musmari would regularly follow her home, phone and text her at all hours, show up at her apartment uninvited, and stand outside her building, whistling or ringing his bicycle bell throughout the night, the records say.
In July, another woman was granted a harassment protection order and accused Musmari of punching her, circling her with his bicycle, following her and threatening to assault her, according to court records.
She also alleged Musmari has had “numerous altercations” with other people in the neighborhood, the records say.
Seattle Times staff reporter Mike Carter and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org