St. Paul man charged in connection to arson at Minneapolis 3rd Precinct

He was arrested while wearing items taken from the precinct.
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A St. Paul man has been charged in connection to a fire set at the Minneapolis 3rd Precinct during the unrest following George Floyd's death. 

Branden Michael Wolfe, 23, is charged in federal court with aiding and abetting arson, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Monday. He'll make his first court appearance at 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

On May 28, the 3rd Precinct at 3000 Minnehaha Ave. in Minneapolis was "overrun and heavily damaged due to vandalism and arson," the news release said. Investigators identified multiple separate fires that had been started inside the building. 

Several days later, on June 3, officers with the St. Paul Police Department responded to a home improvement store in St. Paul after receiving a complaint that a man, later identified as Wolfe, wearing body armor and a law enforcement duty belt carrying a baton was trying to get into the store, documents state. 

Employees said Wolfe was a security guard at the store but was fired earlier that day after referring to social media posts about stealing items from the 3rd Precinct, the news release says.

Wolfe was taken into custody, the release notes. He was wearing multiple items stolen from the 3rd Precinct, including body armor with his name handwritten on duct tape on the back, a police-issue duty belt with handcuffs, an earphone piece, baton and a knife. 

Officials recovered other items from his apartment that belongs to the Minneapolis Police Department, including a riot helmet, 9mm pistol magazine, police radio and police-issue overdose kit, documents state.

The complaint says Wolfe, during an interview with law enforcement, admitted to being inside the 3rd Precinct the night of the arson, to taking property, and to pushing a wooden barrel into the fire. Wolfe confirmed he pushed the wooden barrel into the fire, knowing it would help keep the fire burning. Investigators recovered from the scene charred metal barrel rings. 

He also identified himself in multiple witness photographs that depict Wolfe in front of the 3rd Precinct holding a police baton with smoke and flames visible in the background, the release says.

The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are asking the public to report suspected arson, use of explosive devices, or violent, destructive acts associated with the unrest in the Twin Cities following Floyd's death. 

People who have information specifically related to the 3rd Precinct fire or other business fires in the Twin Cities should call 1-888-283-8477, email ATFTips@atf.gov or submit information anonymously via ReportIt.com

Meanwhile, the FBI is looking for people who may have incited or promoted violence during the riots. Anyone with digital material or tips can call 1-800-225-5342 or submit images or videos at FBI.gov/violence.

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