SEATTLE — A 49-year-old Seattle man arrested earlier this month on suspicion of committing a hate crime against U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal and threatening to kill her has been charged with felony stalking.
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said Brett Forsell was charged Wednesday after additional evidence was gathered by police investigators.
Forsell was arrested July 9 after allegedly yelling obscenities and threats outside Jayapal’s Seattle home late at night and booked into jail. He was released when prosecutors said there wasn’t enough evidence for a hate crime charge, though authorities noted the investigation would continue.
Police later forwarded the stalking case for consideration, prosecutors said.
In 2016, Jayapal became the first Indian American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. The Democrat heads the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
As part of the felony stalking charge, prosecutors note Forsell was armed with a deadly weapon and that Jayapal was stalked in connection with her elected position.
Seattle police arrested Forsell outside Jayapal’s house in the Arbor Heights neighborhood at 11:25 p.m. on July 9 after she called 911 and reported an unknown person or people were near her home using obscene language and mentioning her name, probable cause documents said. She told a dispatcher her husband thought someone may have fired a pellet gun, the statement said.
Officers found Forsell standing in the the street with his hands in the air and a handgun holstered on his waist, the probable cause statement said.
Forsell told police he drove by Jayapal’s house yelling obscenities multiple times since late June and on July 9 drove by, stopped, got out of the car and directed profanities at Jayapal, according to the probable cause statement.
He left after encountering her husband and then returned a short time later, knowing they were home, and was seen by neighbors and Jayapal’s husband appearing to approach the house while yelling at Jayapal, documents said. A neighbor told police she heard a man threaten to kill Jayapal and believed the statements were made by the man arrested that night.
Police learned the man sent an email to Jayapal’s public account in January, saying he didn’t like her, documents said.
A temporary Extreme Risk Protection Order to require Forsell to surrender his firearms and concealed pistol license, citing concerns about escalating behavior toward Jayapal and increasing mental health struggles, remains in place.
Prosecutors said a judge approved a bail amount of $500,000. It didn’t appear that Forsell had been booked into jail as of Wednesday evening. The Associated Press was unable to locate Forsell for comment and it was not known if he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Jayapal said in a statement that the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office charging Forsell with felony stalking demonstrates that the justice system is doing its work.
“I am grateful to the King County Prosecutor’s Office for holding this man accountable for his dangerous actions, to the victim’s advocate for her assistance throughout the process, and to the Seattle Police Department, U.S. Capitol Police, and the House Sergeant at Arms for continuing to keep my family, me, and my staff safe,” Jayapal said.