In a recent court decision that has sparked discussions within the LGBTQ+ community and beyond, Kalvinn Garcia, aged 26, has been sentenced to four years in prison and three years of supervised release for setting fire to Seattle’s Queer/Bar in February 2020. The hate crime incident sent shockwaves through Seattle, Washington, as patrons of the LGBTQ+ bar were terrorized, albeit fortunately evacuated safely.
Garcia displayed a disturbing lack of remorse when questioned by authorities in 2020, unabashedly stating that it was “wrong that we have a bunch of queers in our society.” This chilling admission of bias-motivated violence was a chilling glimpse into the motivation behind the arson.
During the court hearing, FBI Seattle Special Agent in Charge Richard A. Collodi revealed that Garcia had admitted to setting the fire with the intention of harming people based on his own bias. Additionally, Garcia confided in a stranger, articulating his sinister plan to trap and harm those inside the LGBTQ+ bar through arson.
While Garcia’s guilty plea carried the potential for a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a hefty fine, the sentencing decision rendered on Tuesday saw him receive a 48-month prison term, followed by three years of supervised release. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division emphasized the gravity of the crime, stating, “Bias-motivated violence runs contrary to our values and violates our federal civil rights laws.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman for the Western District of Washington underscored the impact of such hate crimes on the LGBTQI+ community, noting that the trauma can persist long after the incident itself. In a sobering conclusion, US District Court Judge John C. Coughenour emphasized the potential for panic and tragedy inherent in such acts of hate, emphasizing that “hate is hate, whether it is impacted by mental health or not.”
This sentencing decision serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community and the importance of combating hate crimes to ensure equal protection under the law for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.