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News / Northwest

Man who lit fire at Spokane County Democrats’ office released after being found not guilty by reason of insanity

By Emma Epperly, The Spokesman-Review
Published: March 27, 2024, 7:54am

SPOKANE — The man who lit a fire at the Spokane County Democrats headquarters in 2020 was found not guilty by reason of insanity by a federal court judge and released last week.

Peter Yeager is not a substantial risk to the community, U.S.District Court Judge William Fremming Nielsen found.

Yeager, of Grand Coulee, Washington, went into the local Democrats’ office and told volunteers he had a bomb, according to Spokane Police at the time. Yeager was later found not to have a bomb.

He went on to start a fire causing “tens of thousands” of dollars in damage, then-Police Chief Craig Meidl said.

Yeager was first charged in state court, then indicted federally. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity by Nielsen, who also determined after an evidentiary hearing that Yeager was not a risk to the community.

That finding came after Nielsen appointed a psychologist to examine Yeager, who is a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq. The psychologist found Yeager’s mental illness was in part caused by multiple traumatic brain injuries, but after treatment he does not represent a threat to the public, according to court records.

Yeager has a great support network and has been consistent in treatment, which reduces his risk of violence, the psychologist found.

The Spokane County Democrats said in a news release that Yeager was taking out his anger at the system that failed him in the wrong place. The statement said the group is willing “to see past the violence and find a way forward.”

“The Spokane Democrats believe the path to resolving issues is to come together, respect one another’s differences, and build a framework that supports dialogue,” the news release reads.

Yeager had been turned away from the Veteran’s Administration when he asked for help before the incident, according to court filings. Since his arrest, Yeager has been on home monitoring, enrolled in school and received help.

“We appreciate the efforts of law enforcement to apprehend him, the judicial system for resolving the issue, and now, the Veteran’s Administration for getting him help,” the Democrats’ statement reads.