Suspect in Seattle encampment fire released without charges

Aug 18, 2023, 10:27 AM | Updated: Aug 21, 2023, 10:48 am

encampment fire released...

(MyNorthwest Photo)

(MyNorthwest Photo)

A 46-year-old man suspected of starting a large fire at a homeless encampment off Mercer Street in Seattle last week has been released from jail with no charges filed.

Earlier this week, a judge found probable cause for felony reckless burning, and the man was initially held on $50,000 bail.

Previous coverage: Suspect in custody after encampment fire in South Lake Union

Two days later, he was released without the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) filing charges. Instead, the investigation was sent to the Seattle City Attorney, where he could still face a lesser misdemeanor charge.

The KCPAO clarified Monday they did not receive the case referral and police made the decision to refer it as a misdemeanor based on the evidence.

The office added what they did have was the first appearance document, which, as the KCPAO notes, is different from the documents legally required to be referred for a charging decision. County prosecutors asked for him to be held on $150,000 bail in that document.

According to court documents, the man said he was cleaning his tent when he knocked over a lit candle. He said he didn’t notice at first but soon saw his tent was on fire. He said he then tried to put the fire, but it grew too big for him to handle.

The fire prompted a large fire response and forced the closure of the Mercer Street ramp to Interstate 5 for about an hour.

The scar of the fire is still at the site of the encampment. Some tents have started to come back on the other side of Mercer Street, some residents report.

Contributing: KIRO 7

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