Based on the results of the investigation, there’s currently “no reason” to believe that the alleged arson that destroyed Adas Israel Synagogue in Duluth, Minnesota was a hate crime, Police Chief Mike Tusken said in a press conference on Sunday.
Authorities formally announced the arrest of Matthew Amiot, 36, as the perpetrator. Records show he is being held without bail at St. Louis County Jail on a charge of first-degree arson. The press conference revealed that he does not have an attorney at this time.
Tusken said the hate crime determination could change, but the fire is not being treated as a bias incident as of the press conference.
Fire Chief Shawn Krizaj said first responders were dispatched early Monday morning at 2:24 a.m. to a call about a shed fire next to an apartment building (there are a number of apartment buildings in the area). Authorities quickly realized, however, that the flames was at a synagogue. He said the flames originated outside the building, and entered through the voids in a wall space. No accelerants were discovered, he said. One injury was reported. A fire captain is currently recovering from the symptoms of a concussion, but is “doing well,” said Krizaj.
Amiot is a Duluth resident, but doesn’t have a permanent address, said Tusken. The suspect gave a statement, according to the chief. Authorities didn’t elaborate much more than that, citing the integrity of the ongoing investigation.
Rabbi Phillip Sher, of Adas Israel Synagogue, told reporters that the suspect was neither known to the congregation, nor Jewish.
“I will not speculate as to the man’s motives,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I would warn everybody you’re innocent until proven guilty, and that’s America as it should be. We’re not out for vengeance. All I can find out of this event is sadness for everyone.”
He said they didn’t have a new permanent home for services, and probably wouldn’t be able to start efforts in earnest until the Spring because of the difficulty of doing this in Winter. Nonetheless, he said that current fundraising efforts for the synagogue were unsanctioned, and he mentioned that they stopped an attempted scammer.
He asked that people withhold their money for now, while synagogue officials continued to work with the insurance company, family members, and benefactors. They will make a public announcement if it turns out later that they need the money, he said.
[Screengrab via WCCO]