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Seattle Fire employee arrested for threatening emails sent to City Council member

caption: FILE - A fire truck pulls into the Seattle Fire Dept.'s Station 31 following a call Friday, April 16, 2004, in Seattle.
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FILE - A fire truck pulls into the Seattle Fire Dept.'s Station 31 following a call Friday, April 16, 2004, in Seattle.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Seattle police have arrested a fire department employee accused of sending threatening emails to a city council member.

Update 2/13/21: According to Seattle police, the firefighter accused of sending threatening emails to Kshama Sawant was trying to cause trouble for a fellow employee with whom he had a negative work history. They say firefighter Andrew Finseth admitted sending the emails from another firefighter’s account, according to a "statement of probable cause" filed with the King County Superior Court.

Finseth allegedly told investigators “he did not have any intentions of harming Sawant,” but was instead seeking to get his colleague “punished by the chain of command.”

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office argued Saturday that there was probable cause to charge Finseth with felony harassment, second-degree identity theft and first-degree computer trespass.

Investigators say the IP addresses associated with the multiple emails telling Sawant to “get out of the city or else” and other threats were associated with Finseth’s residence and church. According to investigators, Finseth also sent emails from his colleague’s account making it appear that his colleague was seeking to be transferred. That led fire department employees to discover his tampering with the account.

The judge ordered Finseth to have no contact with Councilmember Sawant and the fellow firefighter, including at work, either directly or indirectly. The judge released Finseth on his personal recognizance and ordered him to return to court Feb. 17.

Original story: The Seattle Police Department announced Friday that it had arrested a member of the city's fire department as part of an ongoing investigation into threats against a city council member. The Seattle Police Department did not say if the suspect, a 42-year-old man, is a firefighter or someone who works elsewhere in the department.

The employee was arrested Friday on charges of cyberstalking, computer trespass, and identity theft, and was booked at the King County Jail.

Investigators believe the man gained access to another employee's email account and used it to send threatening messages to the council member last year. Police initially looked into the firefighter assigned to the email account and had eliminated them as a suspect.

Police have not identified the council member who was threatened. However, council member Kshama Sawant has made it known that she has received threats from a city fire department email account.

Earlier this month, she publicly questioned if the Seattle Police Department was taking the case seriously. Sawant also wrote a letter to Mayor Jenny Durkan, stating: "Because of the serious nature of these emails — their threatening content, the fact that they were escalating in nature, potentially linked to the recent right-wing protests, and sent from an official City of Seattle email account — I asked that they be taken seriously."

The Seattle Police Department notes that this is just one case it is investigating involving threats against a council member. It sent a different, similar case to the City Attorney's Office in December.

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