Man who set fire to LGBTQ+ bar sentenced to just four years behind bars

LGBTQ+ progress flags wave in an American street.

A man who has pleaded guilty to setting an LGBTQ+ bar on fire has been sentenced to just four years in prison and three years of supervised release.

Kalvinn Garcia, 26, terrorised the patrons of Seattle, Washington’s Queer/Bar on 24 February 2020 when he set it on fire. Thankfully, those inside the bar at the time of the fire were evacuated safely.

The arsonist expressed little regret when questioned by police back in 2020, telling investigators that it was “wrong that we have a bunch of queers in our society.”

Garcia pleaded guilty to the hate crime in 2022.

Arsonist pleads guilty to setting Seattle LGBTQ+ venue Queer/Bar on fire
Garcia has been sentenced to 48 months behind bars for setting Seattle LGBTQ+ venue Queer/Bar on fire (Edward Smith/ Getty Images)

During his hearing, the court heard from FBI Seattle Special Agent in Charge Richard A. Collodi that Garcia had “admitted to setting the fire in an effort to hurt people based on his own bias.”

Garcia also told a stranger that his intent was to trap and hurt the people inside of the LGBTQ+ bar by setting fire to it according to the Department of Justice.

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Garcia’s guilty plea could have landed him a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

However, it was decided on Tuesday (3 October) that Garcia would be sentenced to 48 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

Speaking at Garcia’s sentencing, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said: “The defendant committed an act of violence targeting innocent victims inside Queer/Bar, a known safe space for the LGBTQI+ community.

“Bias-motivated violence runs contrary to our values and violates our federal civil rights laws. 

“This sentence should send the message that every person in our nation deserves equal protection under the law regardless of who they love or how they identify and that those carrying out similar acts of violence against the LGBTQI+ community will be brought to justice.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman for the Western District of Washington added: “Mr. Garcia endangered the lives of more than 100 people because of his hatred for members of our LGBTQI+ community.

”We work diligently with our federal, state and local partners to investigate and prosecute acts of hatred against people because of their sexuality or gender identity. This work is a priority because the effect of these hate crimes can linger in communities and traumatize the members of the targeted community for weeks, months or years after.”

Finally, US District Court Judge John C. Coughenour said at Garcia’s sentencing that the “potential for panic and trampling and death is incredible.”

He added: “Hate is hate, whether it is impacted by mental health or not.”