Federal authorities charged two more people — both from within the Twin Cities metropolitan area — in connection with separate arsons during last month’s unrest over George Floyd’s killing.
Mohamed Hussein Abdi, 19, of Maplewood, and Matthew Scott White, 31, of Minneapolis, each made first appearances Tuesday in federal court, bringing the total of federal arson and rioting charges since Floyd’s death to at least 14.
According to a federal criminal complaint, Abdi and one other person were captured on surveillance video setting fire to Gordon Parks High School in St. Paul on May 28 — three days after the police killing of Floyd in south Minneapolis. The complaint says that Abdi was seen pouring clear liquid on the school’s cafeteria floor and into a trash can before starting a fire using a “liquid-soaked garment.”
White appeared in a separate case two weeks after his sister — Jessica Lynn White — was arrested in connection with a May 28 blaze that destroyed a St. Paul Enterprise Rent-A-Car location. Each faces charges of conspiracy to commit arson.
Paul Applebaum, an attorney representing White, said Tuesday that White maintained his innocence. Applebaum said he has not received all of the evidence in the case, but acknowledged that the growing number of federal arson charges related to last month’s civil unrest posed a unique legal argument.
“Political upheaval and mass demonstrations and things like that versus your garden variety arson case where someone wants to get rid of a money-losing restaurant,” Applebaum said. “That obviously lends a dynamic to it that is something that we’re going to hope to exploit in a courtroom setting because people have very strong feelings about what happened.”
An attorney for Abdi could not be determined Tuesday.
According to a federal criminal complaint, the two White siblings and Jessica White’s juvenile son were captured on surveillance cameras inside and outside the Enterprise building in the moments before and after it began burning. The three also lingered to watch the building burn after a crowd gathered outside.
The complaint described witnesses coming forward after the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) offered a $5,000 reward for information on the three people behind the Enterprise fire and issued a news release earlier in June showing surveillance photos of three suspects. The ATF got tips identifying Jessica White and her son that same day; Jessica White was arrested June 16.
Last week, according the complaint, a witness to the fire identified Matthew White and said that he was on supervised release from federal prison and living in the Longfellow neighborhood in Minneapolis. Court records show that White was sentenced to time served and supervised release for bank fraud earlier this year.
White is next scheduled to appear in court Thursday for a detention hearing.
In another case Tuesday, Dylan Shakespeare Robinson, a 22-year-old Brainerd man charged with arson in the Third Precinct fire, made his first appearance in a Minnesota federal courtroom after being arrested in and extradited from Colorado in June.