Screenshot of the "Tan Gloves" subject at the Labor Day 2020 SPOG protest taken from video footage by reporter Chris Rojas. Used by permission.

Renton Man’s Arrest Further Belies OPA’s Version of Labor Day 2020 Events

by Carolyn Bick

The Emerald’s Watchdragon reporting seeks to increase accountability within our city’s institutions through in-depth investigative journalism.

In early December 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington announced that several cooperating law enforcement agencies had arrested a man suspected of taking part in a plot to burn down the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) during the 2020 Labor Day protest.

The man, Justin Christopher Moore, is the person the Emerald refers to as “Tan Gloves” in this story about the 2020 Labor Day protest in front of SPOG. The complaint filed with the U.S. District Court in Seattle on Nov. 23, 2021, confirms not only what the Emerald laid out for readers in that story — specifically that Moore was never at any point during the protest targeted for arrest — but also provides new details about the events of that day. 

The press release accompanying the complaint says that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Seattle Police Department (SPD) are investigating the case and that U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg is prosecuting the case. According to the complaint, which is the testimony of FBI special agent Katherine Murphy, Moore was part of a group of four people who had planned to burn down the SPOG building. The other people in that group are known as Conspirators 1–3. The names of those people were not specifically revealed in the complaint, but the complaint details key text messages among them. 

The complaint said that Moore was only discovered after the Renton Police Department responded to a call about a physical altercation between Moore and his roommate. Moore’s roommate is referred to as Witness 1 in the complaint.

“Witness 1 told officers that Moore was a dangerous person. As an example, he stated that Moore was the person who brought a Corona box of Molotov cocktails to the SPOG demonstration on Labor Day 2020,” the complaint reads. “The Renton Police Department officers provided this information to the FBI.”

The complaint states that FBI agents interviewed Moore’s roommate on several occasions, during which the roommate said that he’d told Moore he was “crazy for bringing [Molotov cocktails] to the protest.” Moore’s roommate also told FBI agents that Moore later told him he had had to “ditch” the box of Molotov cocktails. The roommate also confirmed that Moore was wearing tan gloves and a dark blue hoodie at the protest and later apparently changed into a bright red shirt with white lettering across the chest and khaki shorts. Of the descriptions of suspects over police radio that day, a person wearing a red shirt and khaki shorts was not among them.  

SPD officers executed a search warrant on Moore’s home in Renton, Washington, as well as a CarMax car Moore was borrowing, on June 28 and June 29, 2021. The complaint says that officers found several things linking Moore to the items seized. Among these items was a notebook with pages of information regarding Moore himself, such as Moore’s bank account information and known contacts. 

The notebook also has writings that appeared to pertain to explosives information, including a list of what appear to be explosive ingredients — “ping pong balls, matchbooks, Rocket candy, black powder, scale, potassium nitrate, magnesium, masking tape” — and “what appear to be recipes for manufacturing explosives, including: ‘Smoke mix, 60/40, 60 rocket candy, 40 black powder, flash mix 70/30, potassium nitrate, magnesium.’”

The notebook also contained what appear to be Moore’s personal ruminations. The Emerald has included a few below, written exactly as laid out in the complaint’s text.

One excerpt reads: “If anyone should read these words … please know that I am not 50/150. I have a sane and sound mind. I just intend to die. Some are borne to be parents … I am not. Some are borne to be leaders … I am not. Some are borne to be followers … I am not. Some are borne to be evil men … If I am not careful I will be this … but I do not believe this to be my destiny. Some men are borne to kill … that is what I am. I am a killer. I have killed. This is not some bold and blond guess as to what I am. It is an observation of reality.”

A second states briefly, “I am an individual that will no doubt be of historical interest. This is not an attmittance [sic] of arrogance … Simply an observation of my activity.”

Another reads, “There are always things I can’t say … So know this … I am not done yet. There is darkness in my mind that I must see reflected … where else but this paper. I’m wired to kill. I can’t stop what I feel. If I could I wouldn’t still I march to die and I’m never asking why.”

The complaint says that SPD officers also found, again among other items, clothing that matched the attire Moore’s roommate said Moore changed into in the park in the later part of Labor Day. The complaint here notes in a footnote that “[a]n undercover FBI Special Agent who was in the crowd on Labor Day 2020 closely observed the suspect who was carrying the Corona box. The agent took note of the clothing the suspect was wearing, in particular the black athletic shoes. The agent has observed the shoes seized from Moore’s residence and is confident that they are the same style of shoe worn by the suspect on Labor Day.”

This specifically relates to the revelation that the FBI targeted Black Lives Matter protesters in order to disrupt the movement, a fact that attorney Sadé Smith asserted during the 2020 protests and revisited this past summer on Converge Media.

Attorney Sadé Smith asserted that the FBI targeted Black Lives Matter protestors in order to disrupt the movement in an interview with Converge Media in 2021.

The complaint says that officers also found “several items and materials that can be used in the manufacture of explosives, including consumer fireworks, Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) flameless ration heaters (FRH), a 50-pack of Diamond Deluxe matchbooks, a four-pound bag of bulk potassium nitrate, and Goex FFFFg black powder” as well as “a large assortment of gas masks, wrist-rockets, potato cannons, bolt cutters, paint, water guns, and climbing harnesses.”

The complaint states that investigators also interviewed Conspirator 2 during the autumn of 2021 three times. The complaint says that Conspirator 2 confirmed that she and Conspirator 1 were the people who came up with the plan to target SPOG with Molotov cocktails on Labor Day in 2020. In the process of trying to find others to join them, they linked up with Conspirator 3 and Moore. 

The complaint says that Conspirator 2 met up with Conspirators 1 and 3 at Cal Anderson Park before the protest but that Moore was not with them. She said that Conspirator 3 later pointed out Moore in the crowd at the beginning of the march. Conspirator 3 called Moore “Potato,” which, according to the complaint, was a nickname he used (this moniker was also used in the Signal messages among the different conspirators, which, as the Emerald has noted, are included in detail in the complaint). The complaint says that Conspirator 2 saw that Moore was carrying something large. However, she got separated from Conspirators 1 and 3 and only later met up with them again.

“Later that evening, Conspirator 1, Conspirator 2, Conspirator 3, and Moore were together at Cal Anderson Park,” the complaint reads. “Moore viewed an SPD Twitter post with a photo of the recovered Corona box of Molotov cocktails. Moore acknowledged carrying the Molotov cocktails and commented that no one would ever figure it out and he would get away with it. Moore also commented that a lot of people were wearing black bloc, but he was ‘dressed like everybody else.’”

The complaint then briefly details both voice identification of Moore via body-worn video (BWV) and third-party video, as well as FBI agents’ conferral with an agent from ATF for an official incendiary device determination — Molotov cocktails — before closing.

Though the OPA claimed in a roundabout way in the Director’s Certification Memo (DCM) discussed in the story linked at the beginning of this piece that Justin Moore was the person SPD attempted to arrest as the “Molotov cocktail” suspect, the complaint against Moore makes no mention of Moore ever having been targeted for arrest in any form on Labor Day 2020. The complaint reveals that Moore had two different outfits, but neither of those outfits matched the descriptions of clothing (all-black clothes and tan dress with a pink bandana) discussed over police radio at the 2020 Labor Day protest as identifiers for arrest targets. Thus, this complaint confirms exactly what the Emerald laid out in that story: Moore was never targeted for arrest, and the OPA incorrectly conflated Moore with what appear to be two other, separate people (though one was never caught on BWV, an issue discussed in said story).

The Emerald would specifically like to note that, even though the complaint does not address this, according to Office of Inspector General (OIG) documentation — also discussed in the above story — Moore was not found on SPOG video until after the protest and thus could not have been identified as a person of interest until after the protest.

According to the most recent document, filed on Jan. 3, 2022, the court granted a time extension for the prosecution team to file an indictment against Moore, delaying the deadline to Feb. 9, 2022.

Carolyn Bick is a local journalist and photographer. As the Emerald’s Watchdragon reporter, they dive deep into local issues to keep the public informed and ensure those in positions of power are held accountable for their actions. You can reach them here and can check out their work here and here.

📸 Featured Image: Screenshot of the “Tan Gloves” subject at the Labor Day 2020 SPOG protest taken from video footage by reporter Chris Rojas. Used by permission.

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