A 22-year-old Twin Cities man was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for throwing a traffic cone and a beer can into a fire that gutted a Wells Fargo Bank building in south Minneapolis as riots over George Floyd's police killing raged last year.
The sentence of Alexander S. Heil of Monticello in connection with the blaze at 3030 S. Nicollet Av. includes three years of supervision after his release. He pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to commit arson and was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul.
A co-defendant, Marc B. Gonzales, 30, of Wayzata is scheduled for sentencing on Wednesday for starting the fire with gasoline.
In a court filing leading up to Heil's sentence, the prosecution argued that his actions "presented a host of dangers to others. The defendant could not have known whether there were other individuals inside the bank building at the time [and] could not have known whether firefighters called to the blaze would succumb to the smoke pouring out or become trapped by a collapsing roof as they performed their job."
The prosecution also pointed out that Heil has "significant substance abuse issues" and a long history of running afoul of the law since he was 14. As an adult, he has been convicted of drinking offenses, domestic assault, violating no-contact orders and fleeing police.
A week after pleading guilty to the arson, the prosecution's filing pointed out, Heil was charged with felonies after he was caught with 29 ounces of marijuana and $943.
Defense attorney Craig Cascarano countered that "it is critical for the court to note that Mr. Heil was not the person who started the fire. It is clear that Mr. Gonzales poured gasoline in the Wells Fargo Bank building and initiated the fire."
All Heil did, Cascarano continued, was commit "the fairly innocuous act of throwing a traffic cone into the already existing fire" as well as a beer can.
"He went to the Lake Street area to be part of the protest, drank too much and in a senseless, impulsive act while clearly under the influence of alcohol, threw a traffic cone into the existing fire," the defense attorney wrote.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482