Police arrest suspect in Minnesota synagogue fire

Sept. 15 (UPI) — Police in Minnesota on Sunday announced the arrest of a man in connection with a fire at a synagogue last week.

Matthew James Amiot, 36, was arrested on a felony charge of first-degree arson related to a fire at the Adas Israel Congregation synagogue in Duluth on Monday, Duluth police announced in a press conference on Sunday.

Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said Sunday that the investigation is “open and active” but authorities do not believe the fire was a hate crime.

“Based on all the information that I have reviewed, that I’ve read and the investigators I have talked to, at this moment in time there is no reason to believe that this is a bias or hate crime,” he said.

Tusken said that Amiot has no permanent address and court records showed he has previous convictions for misdemeanor shoplifting and trespassing.

Authorities responded to reports of a fire in an outbuilding near the synagogue at 2:23 a.m. on Monday. The blaze began on the northeast side of the building and spread into the synagogue.

Duluth firefighter Ben Gasner was injured while responding to the blaze and is recovering from a concussion.

Much of the 120-year-old building, including several Torah scrolls, was destroyed in the fire.

“The image of a house of worship ablaze is a searing reminder of the challenges we face with rising antisemitism and bigotry in this country,” the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota said. “We ask the public to respect the investigative process and withhold final judgment until the full facts are revealed in the criminal complaint later this week.”

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