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The man suspected of setting many if not all of the 14 recent arsons in Greenwood is a 46-year-old homeless man named Kevin Todd Swalwell.
At a press conference held at SPD headquarters this afternoon, Assistant Police Chief Paul Kimerer advised that all info at this point is preliminary, but confirmed earlier reports that a suspect in the arsons had been arrested following the 3-alarm monster blaze that destroyed the N.W. Discount World furniture warehouse in Shoreline early this morning.
Police spotted Swalwell walking just a few blocks from the fire at 158th and Aurora Avenue, and then detained him for questioning. A second person was arrested this morning but has since been released. Police would not comment on what connection that person might have to the case.
Swalwell, a former laborer, has been on law enforcement's radar since the early days of the investigation when police received a tip that he might be a "person of interest." Witness reported seeing Swalwell in the vicinity of three of the earlier fires, and members of the joint task force charged with investigating the arsons have "had their eye on him" for the past few days, said Assistant Chief John McDonaugh.
As it turns out, Swalwell has a history of playing with fire. According to this Seattle Times article, he was convicted of arson in 1983, and again in 1995 after setting three fires in his grandmother's Aurora Avenue apartment complex. He plead guilty to five counts of arson and was sentenced to 10 and a half years in prison.
A copy of the Seattle Times was used in a least one of those fires. As police announced at a briefing held earlier this week, the suspect in the Greenwood arsons uses surrounding materials, including newspapers, as accelerants.
Swalwell is currently being held as a suspect in a number of the 14 recent arsons, but would not specify which or how many.
Special Agent Kelvin Crenshaw of the ATF did reveal that in the last two years there have been 68 ruled arsons in Greenwood. Investigators can't say how many of those can or will be attributed to whomever is committing the Greenwood arsons. They also advised residents of the Greenwood neighborhood to remain vigilant, as they haven't yet ruled out whether there is more than one suspect left to be caught.
Swalwell is expected to be charged by King County Prosecutors in the coming days. More updates as they come.
UPDATE: Police have matched Swalwell's palm prints to those found on a can of charcoal lighter fluid found near the scene of the August 13 fire that claimed a Greenwood home and injured the man reported to be residing there.
According to police affidavit, he's admitted to being at the scene when that fire was set. He's also confessed to being solely responsible for several of the other Greenwood arsons.
Swalwell was arrested in connection to the fires on Friday, and is currently being held on $1 million bail at King County Jail after being arraigned over the weekend.
Update: We'll probably never know the real reason why people are inclined to use copies of the Seattle Weekly in the commission of crimes. Better just to chalk it up to availability and leave questions about our targeted demographics aside. That said, we'll all sleep a bit more soundly tonight now that the the last person reported to use the paper for nefarious means has been caught. Turns out that he and Kevin Todd Swalwell are one and the same.
Swalwell was charged today with eight counts of second-degree arson, and three counts of first degree arson.Those, plus a charge for robbing the Coffee Bean of a safe before he allegedly set fire to the building that houses it, brings his grand total up to 12.
According to a report by the P-I, Swalwell used a copy of the SW as kindling for a fire he set to a three story manse at 7708 Greenwood Avenue North on August 12 of this year. Luckily, the blaze only caused an estimated $100 in damages. Of course that wad isn't actually identified as one of ours in the charging documents. So, we'd like to send the Seattle Police Department a hearty shout-out for doing so in the police incident reports. A full list of the arsons attributed to Swalwell follows:
June 19, the OK Corral (8733 Greenwood Ave. N.)
Aug. 1, 7708 Greenwood Ave. N.
Aug. 13, O-Rings West building (11111 N. 98th St.)
Aug. 13, 108 84th Ave. N.W.
Oct. 23, Green Bean Coffee House (208 North 85th St.)
Nov. 5, 338 N.W. 85th St
Nov. 5, Rosewood Guitar (8401 Greenwood Ave. N.)
Nov. 8, Moonphoto (7704 Greenwood Ave. N.)
Nov. 9, Olive You (8516 Greenwood Ave. N)
Nov. 9, QuickStop (8102 Greenwood Ave. N.)
Nov. 12, Northwest Discount (16748 Aurora Ave. N. in Shoreline)
UPDATE: The Seattle Times reports that at an arraignment hearing held Tuesday morning, Kevin Swalwell, the alleged Greenwood arsonist, pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Swalwell, who has six prior convictions for arson, was charged last month with 11 counts arson and one count of burglary. Prosecutors say that If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison.