Federal authorities charged a St. Paul man this week with aiding and abetting arson for his involvement in the destruction of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct.
The Third Precinct was one of the hundreds of buildings destroyed by rioters in the wake of George Floyd’s alleged murder by police officers on Memorial Day. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has faced substantial criticism for his decision to give up the Third Precinct on the night of May 28.
According to a federal criminal complaint, 23-year-old Branden Michael Wolfe confirmed that he pushed a wooden barrel into a fire in the Third Precinct, knowing that it would help keep the fire burning.
Wolfe was arrested last week in St. Paul when he attempted to enter a home improvement store (his former place of employment) while equipped with body armor, a law enforcement duty belt, and a baton. All of the items were apparently stolen from the Third Precinct. Law enforcement later recovered from Wolfe’s apartment additional items belonging to the Minneapolis Police Department, including a riot helmet, a 9mm pistol magazine, a police radio, and a police issue overdose kit.
According to the complaint, Wolfe admitted to being inside the Third Precinct the night of the arson, taking property from the building, and pushing a wooden barrel into the fire. He also identified himself in multiple pictures standing in front of the Third Precinct while it was burning. Investigators said they identified multiple separate fires that had been started in the building.
Wolfe was charged with one count of aiding and abetting arson, and made his first court appearance Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald also announced charges against 19-year-olds Samuel Elliot Frey and Bailey Marie Baldus for starting a fire in a health and nutrition store in St. Paul.
Investigators were able to identify Frey and Baldus in surveillance footage from the store. Frey can be seen pouring flammable hand sanitizer onto a shelving unit and lighting it on fire. Both Frey and Baldus are from Minnesota and were charged with conspiracy to commit arson.
Another Minnesota man was charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting at police officers during the Minneapolis riots.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “MPD Third Precinct” by Lorie Shaull. CC BY-SA 2.0.