Man charged with trying to start fire at Mall of America

  • Article by: Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 10, 2009 - 12:23 AM

Minneapolis man is accused of trying to start fire at Mall of America. The man also faces charges of making terroristic threats.

A 24-year-old Minneapolis man is accused of three felonies from two incidents in which he allegedly made terroristic threats and tried to start a fire at the Mall of America.

Andrew Nietz was in the Hennepin County jail Thursday on one charge of arson and two charges of terroristic threats from April 1 and Tuesday when he told police officers he had an "incendiary device" at the mall.

Bloomington police first encountered him on April 1 after a backpack loaded with an aerosol can had exploded and caught fire in the third-floor transit area, the complaint said.

The fire caused minor damage and people were on the lower level of the transit area directly below where the burning backpack was found, the complaint said.

"At the time of the offense, the defendant made several comments to officers that he was a terrorist, that he had rocket-propelled grenades and that he knew all about guns," the complaint said.

Nietz was taken to a hospital and put on a 72-hour mental-health crisis hold. Six days later, on Tuesday, police found Nietz back at the Mall of America transit area allegedly trying to light transit brochures on fire. He again told security he was a terrorist and mentioned explosives and rocket-propelled grenades. He threatened to kill a security officer and his family, the complaint said.

In a police interview, Nietz admitted to starting his backpack on fire on April 1 and admitted to the threats. He also admitted to trying to light the bus schedules on fire, the complaint said. His lawyer did not return a call seeking comment.

ROCHELLE OLSON

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