Charges filed in Capitol Hill arson case

Charges filed in Capitol Hill arson case
SEATTLE (AP) - A 30-year-old Bellevue man accused of starting a fire at a crowded Seattle nightclub during a New Year's Eve celebration was charged Wednesday with first-degree arson.

Musab Musmari was held on $1 million bail. King County prosecutors said the man was on his way to the airport to use a recently purchased one-way ticket to Turkey when he was arrested last Saturday.

About 750 people were celebrating New Year's Eve in the nightclub Neighbours when an arsonist poured gasoline on a carpeted stairway and set it ablaze. A U.S. Army staff sergeant and an Air Force member quickly put out the fire before it spread. The club's sprinkler system activated, and no one was hurt.

It was unclear whether Musmari was represented by a lawyer. His arraignment is set for Feb. 19.

Fire investigators found a one-gallon plastic container of gasoline at the top of the stairs, according to court records.

Callers identified Musmari from surveillance video that had been released to the public, police said in court documents.

In the video, a man is seen carrying an object that is large and heavy enough to contain a one-gallon gas can shortly before midnight, according to the probable cause statement. He is seen walking toward the east stairway carrying an object, and the fire is seen in that stairway about 12 to 15 minutes later. The man is spotted on the main floor leaving the nightclub.

Police found U.S. and Libyan passports on Musmari, who is a U.S. citizen, the court record shows. He has been ordered to surrender the passports.

Less than 24 hours after a witness first told Musmari about news media coverage of the fire, and observed that the suspect image resembled Musmari, the man contacted a travel agent to buy the one-way airline ticket to Turkey, a deputy prosecutor said in court papers.