The break in the two-year mystery of who set fire to Eagan’s Historic Town Hall, authorities said, included video of two Scott County brothers on their own home surveillance system, a prison phone call back home to Mom and a fresh pile of human feces left at the scene.
Brothers Michael Duane Damron, aka Wayne Duane Arvidson, and Wynn Donald Arvidson had a history of run-ins with the law well before a fire caused extensive damage at the Eagan Town Hall in the early hours of Sept. 8, 2013 — a fire police now say they set.
The Dakota County attorney’s office charged Damron, 52, and Arvidson, 50, this week with first-degree felony arson. Damron is still serving an 18-month sentence for receiving stolen property.
Damron, while an electrical engineering student in North Dakota, served nearly a decade in federal prison for cutting 19 underground telephone cables in Fargo in the 1990s, disrupting service to thousands for days and causing $1 million in damage. Once out, he moved to the Twin Cities, where his mother and a sister called Eagan home.
A year later, Damron pleaded guilty to stealing more than $250,000 worth of goods in 20 thefts around the south metro. His family unsuccessfully sued the cities of Eagan and Inver Grove Heights for $12 million, claiming police took personal items during the theft case. According to charges, Damron also has a long history of writing threatening letters to public officials.
The day of the blaze, an Eagan police officer first saw flames around 5 a.m. at the Town Hall building across the street from the Police Department at Pilot Knob and Wescott roads. Police investigating the fire later discovered a large hole cut in a chain-link fence along nearby Interstate 35E, a small bicycle on which a person was recorded riding away from the fire and “a fresh pile of human feces and several clumps of used toilet paper.” A DNA test of the toilet paper by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension matched with Arvidson’s DNA.
According to charges, a search of the brothers’ Credit River Township home near Prior Lake in 2013 found a home surveillance system with footage of the brothers’ movements leading up to and after the Eagan fire. A search this year turned up a 2-liter soda bottle that still contained a dark liquid that police say the brothers had been recorded holding and discussing.
Eagan Police Chief Jim McDonald called Damron “a person full of hate” who wanted revenge. He said he couldn’t think of a property crime case he ever wanted to solve more.
“He tried somehow inflicting a wound in our city because of a case we worked against him previously,” McDonald said. “To be at this stage where he and his brother will be held accountable is very gratifying.”
The final search of the brothers’ home followed a September monitored phone conversation from prison during which Damron was recorded discussing the statute of limitations and DNA samples with his mother.
“And then there’d be that thing … over in Eagan that they tied to Wynnie’s poop or something,” Damron said, according to charges.
Arvidson made his first court appearance Thursday and is in jail in lieu of $350,000 bail. Damron will appear in Dakota County for his first court appearance soon, the county attorney’s office said. McDonald, meanwhile, said the department believes there’s evidence tying the brothers to additional property crimes throughout the metro.
The Town Hall building was erected at the approximate center of Eagan Township in 1914, and residents convened there for annual meetings to vote on the town’s budget through the early 1960s, city spokesman Tom Garrison said. Garrison said a $340,000 restoration of the building, which now serves as a museum, is nearly done.