DULUTH, Minn. — A fire that destroyed a historic synagogue in northeastern Minnesota doesn’t appear to have been a hate crime, authorities said Sunday in discussing the arrest of a suspect.
Matthew James Amiot, 36, of Duluth, was arrested Friday in the fire last week at the Adas Israel Congregation in downtown Duluth, the city’s police chief, Mike Tusken, said at a news conference.
Tusken said he has no reason to believe the fire was a hate crime, although the investigation is ongoing. Police are recommending that prosecutors charge Amiot, who has no permanent address, with first-degree arson. A criminal complaint is expected to be filed mid-week, he said.
The blaze started in a shed outside the synagogue and spread into the building early Monday, fire Chief Shawn Krizaj said. No accelerants were found.
Investigators from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were called in to assist in the investigation, which is standard when fires break out in places of worship.
One firefighter who was struck by falling debris was taken to a hospital, treated and released. That firefighter is still recovering from a concussion and doing well, Krizaj said.
Mayor Emily Larson said the city continues to offer “our heartfelt condolences” to the Adas Israel congregation and the entire Jewish community.
“This has been a very, very difficult week for this community,” Larson told reporters.
Phillip Sher, past president of the synagogue, would not speculate on a motive. “We’re not out for vengeance. All I can find out of this event is sadness for everyone,” he said.
Sher said it was “extremely sad” for the congregation not to have a home for the Sabbath on Saturday. The charred ruins were released to the congregation on Thursday, and the congregation is exploring how to remove the building, he said.
Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, said in a statement Sunday that while authorities don’t think the fire was a hate crime, “the destruction of Adas Israel Congregation remains a tragedy for generations of Jewish Duluthians.” He added that the group has heard from families with decades of history within the congregation.
“We understand that our Jewish community feels uneasy in this current political and social environment where synagogues, mosques, and predominantly black churches have been attacked in recent years. The image of a house of worship ablaze is a searing reminder of the challenges we face with rising anti-Semitism and bigotry in this country,” Hunegs said.
Police previously have had “multiple contacts” with Amiot, but nothing that rose to the level of arson, the police chief said. Authorities are unaware if Amiot has had previous contact with the synagogue. He remains in jail, and the police chief said Amiot probably does not have a defense attorney yet.
According to its website, the Adas Israel Congregation is an Orthodox/High Conservative Jewish congregation with 75 members. Construction of the synagogue was completed in 1902.
Eight of 14 Torah scrolls, the holy books of Judaism, that were in the synagogue were saved.
Ex-Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL player Edwan Coughman, 31, is being charged with staging a hate crime at two of his own restaurants. Coughman is accused of spraying the N-word, Monkey and MAGA on the walls to make it look like a hate crime in order to collect insurance money.
Gwinnett County police officers responded just before 9:30 p.m. Wednesday after a 911 call reporting a man damaging the businesses, according to a Friday news release. The caller said the man was driving a black Chevrolet Silverado without a license plate.
Officers stopped a truck matching that description as it was leaving the shopping center and noticed televisions attached to brackets with damaged drywall in the back, the release says. They learned the driver, 31-year-old Edawn Louis Coughman, owned the businesses.
Coughman used an yellow crow bar to make it look like a break-in, and black spray paint to write “racially-motivated words, swastikas, and ‘MAGA’ ” on the property, the Gwinnett County Police Department said in a press release.
Smollett, of “Empire” fame, was accused of pretending he’d been jumped in Chicago by thugs hollering, “This is MAGA country!”
Police recovered the crow bar, spray paint and appliances from the bed of Coughman’s pickup truck.
Coughman was charged with false report of a crime, insurance fraud and concealing a license plate.
The Golden State is one step closer to banning police departments from using facial recognition in body cameras. The California State Senate voted Wednesday to approve a bill that would prevent police from using the two technologies together for three years.
California lawmakers sent the bill to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday to ban police for three years from using facial recognition technology in body cameras — a vote that came after the software incorrectly identified 26 of them as criminal suspects.
AB1215, written by Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, would prohibit police departments from outfitting body cameras with the technology until after Jan. 1, 2023. The Assembly voted 46-21 to pass the bill, giving it final legislative approval.
“Let’s not become a police state and keep body cameras as they were originally intended – to provide police accountability and transparency,” Ting said in a statement after Thursday’s vote.
Law enforcement groups oppose AB 1215, with the California Peace Officers Association putting it on a list of laws the group considers threats to effective policing and crime reduction. In addition, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, said in a statement, “Instead of banning facial recognition technology, California policymakers should create guardrails to prevent potential abuses.”
The bill would make California the largest state to ban the software in body cameras. A few states, including Oregon and New Hampshire, have similar bans. San Francisco and Oakland have already adopted more sweeping prohibitions.
Newsom hasn’t said if he supports the measure. He has until Oct. 13 to sign or veto it.
The bill is opposed by the California Peace Officers’ Association and several other law enforcement groups, which say facial-recognition tools could help identify criminals at large events like the Olympics.
“By banning this technology, California will be announcing to the nation and world that it doesn’t want our law enforcement officers to have the necessary tools they need to properly protect the public and attendees of these events,” the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association wrote in a letter to lawmakers.
Victorville, CA – San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department reported an officer involved shooting Wednesday in the 13000 block of Cabazon Court in Victorville. Video shot at the scene shows suspect, 21-year-old Ari Young, fighting with Deputy Meagan Forsberg resulting in Young taking her firearm and firing at her and responding deputies.
The deputy was hospitalized but not struck by gunfire and expected to make a full recovery.
Forsberg responded to a home around 8AM when a reporting party called law enforcement repeatedly saying “My God, oh my God,” followed with “Send the police,” Sgt. Jeff Allison said.
Sheriff’s Department Officials say Forsberg found 21-year-old Ari Young outside the home, and he became combative with her.
The video depicts both Young and Deputy Forsberg go to the ground and struggle for the weapon, which Young got control of. Young stands up and fires at Forsberg who is running away away from him.
The shot is fired just as additional deputies are arriving on scene, and Young walks toward them, still armed.
The Sheriff’s Department says Young refused to drop the weapon . Around a dozen shots are heard before the video cuts off.
Officials have said Young’s wounds were not considered life-threatening.
Lancaster, CA. – At a news conference on Saturday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced that Deputy Angel Reinosa, 21, admitted to faking the ‘sniper shooting’ he reported on Wednesday. Reinosa even tore his shirt to appear struck by gunfire.
Villanueva wrote in a statement, “When the news broke on Wednesday, I dropped everything I was doing to be at Lancaster and check on the welfare of Deputy Reinosa. Like many responding personnel, I spent needless time and energy on something that did not happen. Rather than delay reporting what we learned for another day, I felt that it was urgent that we share the truth with the public. As Sheriff, I am responsible for my deputies and am embarrassed & incredibly disappointed at what this Deputy did. I apologize to our community and our elected officials who rallied in our support.
During the investigation we had suspicions concerning the validity of the claimed assault but had to exercise care before accusing an employee of making false statements. After investigators were able to establish the facts, we were compelled to share the disappointing truth in our wish to be transparent with the public. I will not tolerate any willful misconduct by any one of our employees. Deputy Angel Reinosa’s actions violated the public’s trust. Every day, the men and women of this department work hard around the clock to ensure the public’s safety. I do not want the actions of one individual to tarnish our tradition of service. Like any subject of an internal investigation, Deputy Reinosa is entitled to due process. I will not tolerate anyone who willfully violates their oath of office, makes a false police report, wastes valuable public safety resources, and causes fear in the community. Those who choose to violate the public’s trust will face at minimum termination and a potential criminal prosecution.”
Writer’s Note: As a former LASD deputy, I am completely disgusted by the actions of this ‘deputy’ and I hope they book him. This is the last thing we need right now in the law enforcement community. ~ Ray Dietrich