SEATTLE, Washington — A missing Texas woman was arrested in Washington on five federal counts of arson for allegedly setting fire to five Seattle Police Department vehicles during protests in May.
This morning, police arrested 25-year-old Margaret Aislinn Channon without incident at her now-Tacoma, Washington, residence.
Federal authorities allege Channon set fire to five Seattle Police Department vehicles, which were parked in the area of Sixth and Pine in downtown Seattle, on Saturday, May 30, 2020.
“This defendant was captured by multiple cameras using an accelerant, lit like a blowtorch, to start fires in five vehicles -- putting the public at risk and creating the very real possibility of a structure fire amidst the throng of people protesting downtown,” stated U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran of the Western District of Washington. “I commend the painstaking work of law enforcement using a variety of images to identify the defendant and locate her so she can be held accountable.”
Channon had been reported as a missing adult out of Brewster County, Texas, in 2019. Details in that missing persons report, including descriptive tattoo information, one of which details a tattoo of the letters "W-A-I-F" on her fingers, provided federal investigators with a name and identifying information to cross reference with other video and photographic images in the case.
Photos and videos obtained during the protest from area stores' video surveillance systems, public photos on social media, and police cameras were also cross referenced with photos on Channon's social media accounts.
"Law enforcement executed a search warrant at Channon’s Tacoma residence and confirmed the distinctive tattoos," read a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office. "They also seized clothing and accessories that appear in some of the videos from the arsons."
Channon will make her initial appearance on the criminal complaint in the U.S. District Court in Seattle at 1:00 p.m., tomorrow, June 12, 2020.
If convicted, Channon faces 10 years in federal prison on each arson charge.
“The number one mission of the FBI is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States. The First Amendment guarantees Americans the right to express their opinions and peacefully protest," stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Raymond Duda of the Seattle Field Office. "What it does not provide is the right to invoke violence under the guise of free speech."
“In cooperation with our partners, we will work tirelessly to identify, investigate, and prevent individuals who are inciting violence, and coordinate with the United States Attorney's Office to address any federal violations,” he said.
“ATF is the Federal agency primarily responsible for administering and enforcing the criminal and regulatory provisions of the Federal laws pertaining to arson. Arson is a crime of violence,” stated ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Blais. “While we stand by every American’s Constitutional right to protest, when someone turns to violence, we will work tirelessly to investigate their crimes. We are working shoulder-to-shoulder with our local, state and federal partners to bring those responsible for actions such as this to justice.”
The case is being investigated by the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), and the Seattle Police Department and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg.