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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

News Release

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Contact: Special Agent Brian Bennett, PIO-ATF

Spokane Man Sentenced for Arson Resulting from Butane Hash Oil Explosion

SPOKANE, Wash. - On March 3, 2015, Donnivan Whitcher of Spokane, Wash. was sentenced after pleading guilty on November 20, 2014 to a federal charge of Arson with Injury. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice sentenced Whitcher to five years' imprisonment and a three-year term of court supervision upon release from federal prison. Whitcher was also ordered to make restitution in the amount of $324,629.90.

Whitcher's indictment and sentencing were the result of an investigation conducted by the Seattle Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Spokane Fire Department into an explosion and fire which occurred at approximately 10 p.m. on January 27, 2014, at an apartment complex in Spokane, Wash. The explosion and fire damaged eight adjacent apartments, which resulted in long-term displacement of the tenants and caused approximately $500,000 in damage. Two of the tenants, who resided in adjacent units to the apartment of origin, sustained injuries and required medical transport and treatment at a local hospital.

The fire scene investigation revealed that the explosion and fire resulted from the manufacturing of butane hash oil (BHO) by Whitcher, a tenant. Whitcher was using butane inside his apartment to manufacture the hash oil, and there was a substantial release of butane within the apartment. The explosion was initiated when Whitcher and a friend fired a propane torch while attempting to smoke a "dub" of hash oil from a marijuana bong.

During the course of the subsequent investigation by ATF, it was discovered that Whitcher was manufacturing hash oil for the purpose of distribution. Further investigative efforts led to the recovery of store video surveillance and receipts that depicted Whitcher purchasing components used in the BHO extraction process from Wal-Mart, Lowes, and a local smoke shop.

On June 24, 2014, ATF arrested Whitcher for violations of Title 18 U.S.C. 844 (i) - Arson with Injury and Title 21 U.S.C. 858 ? Endangering Human Life While Manufacturing a Controlled Substance. Whitcher was subsequently indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in July of 2014.

"We've seen a significant in increase in the number of explosions and fires in Washington State that are directly related to the manufacturing process of butane hash oil," said Special Agent in Charge Douglas Dawson of ATF's Seattle Field Division. "This incident, and Mr. Whitcher's sentencing, should serve as a cautionary tale to anyone considering engaging in this dangerous activity."

This case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Washington, and was the first federal arson prosecution in Washington State of an incident directly attributed to the manufacturing of hash oil within a building used in and affecting interstate commerce.

Pictures of an apartrment after a fire.

Seattle Field Division