Police Say There is No Sign That Duluth, Minnesota, Synagogue Fire Was a Hate Crime

Firefighters investigate the scene after a fire burned down the Adas Israel Congregation in Duluth, Minn., on Sept. 9, 2019. (Dan Kraker/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)

A fire that destroyed a historic synagogue in northeastern Minnesota doesn’t appear to have been a hate crime, authorities said Sunday in discussing the arrest of a suspect.

Matthew James Amiot, 36, of Duluth, was arrested Friday in the fire last week at the Adas Israel Congregation in downtown Duluth, the city’s police chief, Mike Tusken, said at a news conference.

Tusken said he has no reason to believe the fire was a hate crime, although the investigation is ongoing. Police are recommending that prosecutors charge Amiot, who has no permanent address, with first-degree arson. A criminal complaint is expected to be filed mid-week, he said.

The blaze started in a shed outside the synagogue and spread into the building early Monday, fire Chief Shawn Krizaj said. No accelerants were found.

Investigators from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were called in to assist in the investigation, which is standard when fires break out in places of worship.

One firefighter who was struck by falling debris was taken to a hospital, treated and released. That firefighter is still recovering from a concussion and doing well, Krizaj said.

Mayor Emily Larson said the city continues to offer “our heartfelt condolences” to the Adas Israel congregation and the entire Jewish community.

“This has been a very, very difficult week for this community,” Larson told reporters.

Phillip Sher, past president of the synagogue, would not speculate on a motive. “We’re not out for vengeance. All I can find out of this event is sadness for everyone,” he said.

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Source: Religion News Service