Seattle – A 33-year-old man in Kent, Wash. Was sentenced today by Seattle US District Court to two years in prison for being a felon in possession of a gun during civil unrest and looting in downtown Seattle, Interim US Attorney Tessa M Gorman said. Al M. Talaga was arrested in September 2020, following an investigation into the events that began on June 1, 2020. At today’s sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge James L Robart told him, “You can’t have guns. We are talking about a phenomenon that is rampant in our city.
“This defendant was among a relatively small number of people who hijacked otherwise legal protests aimed at highlighting the problem of racial injustice, vandalizing and stealing goods from a small business that had been closed for months due to COVID-19, “Acting U.S. Attorney Gorman said. “He chose to make the situation even more dangerous by bringing loaded firearms into the area. “
According to the criminal complaint, on June 1, 2020, Seattle police responded to reports of a break-in and looting at the Sneaker City store on Pike Street in downtown Seattle. When the police arrived, several suspects were fleeing from the store. Witnesses said some of the looters loaded goods into a Dodge Magnum parked near the store. While checking the car for suspects, officers noticed a number of items that appeared to have been taken from the store, as well as a gun in the driver’s side door panel of the car.
Police impounded the car and traced its property to Talaga. A court-authorized search of the car revealed that there were two guns in the car. In addition to the .40 caliber Glock loaded into the side door pocket, investigators found a second loaded handgun under the floor mat on the passenger side of the car. A law enforcement database check verified that the .40 caliber pistol placed under the groundsheet was reported stolen in 2019 from a Tacoma residence during a home burglary.
Talaga is prohibited from owning firearms due to a 2005 King County Superior Court conviction for second degree theft.
Seeking a 30-month sentence, United States Assistant Prosecutor Kate Crisham wrote in her sentencing note: “In this case, Talaga had two guns easily accessible and loaded into an unlocked car that he and others used it as a receptacle for stolen goods that they looted from the store. A witness observed that the looters made several trips to Talaga’s car with stolen goods. As the probation officer noted, if security or law enforcement officers had confronted the looters near the car, the guns could very well have come into play. “
The case was investigated by the Seattle Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF).
The case is being pursued by Assistant United States Attorney Kate Crisham.