Police arrest Minnesota man suspected of firebombing Muslim-owned restaurant
Police have arrested a Minnesota man accused of firebombing a Muslim-owned restaurant in South Dakota.
Matthew Gust, of East Grand Forks, was charged Friday with arson after police said he threw a 40-ounce beer bottle filled with gasoline Dec. 8 through the window of Juba Coffee House and Restaurant, reported the Grand Forks Herald.
The restaurant was closed and empty at the time, and no injuries were reported, but the fire caused about $90,000 in damages.
Police were unable to locate the 25-year-old Gust, who has several prior felony convictions, until late Tuesday afternoon, when they arrested him at a Super 8 Motel in Fosston, Minnesota.
If convicted of the Class B felony in connection with the firebombing, Gust faces up to 10 years in prison.
Police have not questioned Gust, and they did not want to speculate about his motive.
But the attack “fits a pattern of increased hate-motivated crimes and bias incidents nationwide targeting persons and property associated, or perceived to be associated, with Islam and the American Muslim community since the Paris attacks, the San Bernardino killings and anti-Muslim rhetoric by public figures like Donald Trump,” said the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in a statement.
The restaurant, whose Somali owners have vowed to rebuild in the same location, was targeted several days before the fire with Nazi swastika graffiti and the words “go home” spray-painted on the building.
Investigators have not said whether they believe the incidents are related.