A predawn house fire in Minneapolis was deliberately set, and police suspect that "Black Lives Matter" and Paul Wellstone signs in the midst of the blaze could reveal a motive, a neighborhood leader said.
The fire in the 600 block of 6th Street SE. drew firefighters about 6 a.m. Monday, according to Chris Lautenschlager, executive director of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association.
"The vestibule inside the front door was severely damaged, and the wooden beams inside the front door were scorched," Lautenschlager said in e-mail sent Wednesday night to the Star Tribune. "The perpetrators of this crime used gasoline as an accelerant."
Lautenschlager said that the person who lives in the house, who was not home at the time of the fire, believes the arsonist may have been motivated by the "Black Lives Matter" and Wellstone signs that were on the property and "part of the fire set to the front door."
The resident's suspicions were supported by Police Inspector Todd Loining at Tuesday's neighborhood association meeting, Lautenschlager said.
"While yard signs are sometimes stolen or tampered with in election season, arson is a significantly more troubling crime," Lautenschlager said. "To set fire to a home and yard signs with gasoline is alarming."
Police spokesman John Elder said a witness reported "seeing a person running from the scene. We are unsure if the person set the fire, if they were going to call 911 or if they were just running in the area."
The home is owned by 91-year-old Laurice Jamieson, who had lived there since 1960 until moving out in July to nearby senior housing and has a caretaker living there, said Jamieson's daughter.
Lisa Jamieson, who flew in from her Southern California home as soon as she heard about what happened to her mother's house, said both signs were displayed on the house and clearly visible to anyone passing by.
The Wellstone sign was inside the screen door, the location where debris and gasoline was used to start the blaze, Lisa Jamieson said. The "Black Lives Matter" sign was in an upper window.
"So sad and kind of makes you sick to your stomach," said Lisa Jamieson, who added that smoke and other damage has left the home uninhabitable for now. "She'd say, 'I want the FBI to investigate.' "
The daughter said her mother "has always had political signs in the front yard." Vandals have targeted the home before, she said, once by kicking in the front screen and another time shooting it with a BB gun.
Anyone with information about the fire can call the arson hotline at 1-800-723-2020 or the Minneapolis Arson Squad at (612) 673-3389.