A 38-year-old man is accused of intentionally setting a St. Paul apartment on fire, displacing 19 people.
Mattew Ryan Gieske, 38, who has no permanent address, is charged with first-degree arson in connection to a Sept. 7 fire on the 1650 block of Marion Street in St. Paul's North End neighborhood.
Gieske is accused of setting fire to an apartment door after an encounter with one of the building's residents, the charges against him say.
The fire, which started at about 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 7, "severely damaged" the three-story building, charges say. Nineteen people who live there were displaced and the building was condemned, St. Paul Fire Department said.
According to the criminal complaint, a witness was carrying dog food to his sister's car at 1650 Marion Street in St. Paul when he saw Gieske holding a butcher knife.
The witness recognized Gieske from the building and remembered him displaying odd behavior in the past, including a history of knocking on people's doors and trying doorknobs, charges said.
Gieske said he was Matt, the devil, and Satan, the complaint states. The witness tried to get his sister away from Gieske when he pointed a knife at them. The witness clicked his handgun's safety and asked Gieske to get away, and he fled on foot.
The witness went home to his second-floor apartment. He then heard someone turning his doorknob and he could smell burnt cinnamon or lighter fluid.
He looked out his peephole and saw Gieske, charges state. He told Gieske to go away and then heard someone hitting his door and the sound of someone using a lighter fluid can. He looked out his peephole again and saw Gieske was still there.
Gieske was holding something that was on fire, with the apartment resident then seeing flames rush up his door before entering his apartment charges said. He fled his apartment via his balcony.
Police recovered a partially melted gas can in the second-floor hallway, charges said. The witness positively identified Gieske as the arsonist.
Gieske has previous convictions for terrorstic threats and being a felon in possession of a firearm, the complaint says.
Gieske's next court appearance is Oct. 21.