Federal authorities are offering a reward in hopes of finding whoever set on fire and severely damaged a church in northeast Minneapolis this past spring.
The blaze tore through Sacred Heart of Jesus Polish National Catholic Church in Minneapolis on April 19, leaving the building in the 2200 block of NE. 5th Street with a collapsed roof and beyond repair.
The church building was more than 100 years old.
Investigators with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), "who typically respond to fires related to houses of worship, worked alongside the Minneapolis Police Department and Minneapolis Fire Department to determine that the fire at the church was a result of an act of arson," the ATF said in a statement late Monday.
ATF assistant special agent in charge Jeff Reed said surveillance footage shows "an individual who was present in the area around the time when smoke started billowing from the church."
"We believe this person has valuable information related to this fire, and we're looking to the public to help us identify the individual," Reed said.
More than five months after the blaze, a burnt smell still lingered at the church Monday. Minneapolis city inspectors ordered the church to be demolished for public safety reasons by July 29, although it's unclear why the church still stands.
Members of the 100-congregant church were attempting last summer to raise the $75,000 necessary to raze the church and possibly find a new home. An online effort raised about $36,000.
A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered by the Minnesota Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in connection with the crime.
Anyone with information about the fire is urged to contact the ATF at 1-888-ATF-TIPS (1-888-283-8477), by e-mail at ATFTips@atf.gov or submit information anonymously viaReportIt.com
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482