Minnesota Man Is Charged With Arson After 2 Mosque Fires

A Minnesota man was arrested and charged with arson after fires at two Minneapolis mosques last week, federal prosecutors announced on Sunday.

The suspect, Jackie Rahm Little, 36, was also accused of a series of acts of vandalism in January, including to a police vehicle assigned to a Somali officer, a shopping center known as the “Somali Mall” and the Minneapolis district office of a congressional representative, according to an affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court in Minnesota.

The name of the representative was redacted from court documents, but on Monday, Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, said Mr. Little vandalized her office at least once.

Mr. Little, who is also known as Joel Arthur Tueting, and is from Plymouth, Minn., was arrested on Saturday in Mankato, Minn., and taken into federal custody. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to court documents, on April 23, around 7 p.m., Mr. Little started a fire at Masjid Omar Islamic Center in Minneapolis. An employee of the mosque interrupted Mr. Little as he was lighting a cardboard box on fire inside the bathroom and chased him out of the building.

The next day, also around 7 p.m., four men working at Masjid Al-Rahma Mosque responded to a fire on the third floor. Children who had been attending a private day care on a lower floor had to be evacuated, court documents said. Surveillance footage showed Mr. Little approaching and entering the mosque just before the fire. A representative for the mosque told investigators that the fire caused tens of thousands of dollars of damage.

Mr. Little was also accused of committing acts of vandalism and harassment before the fires.

The affidavit said that Mr. Little was seen in surveillance footage from Jan. 5 spray-painting “500” on the door of a district office for a congressional representative, who is believed to be Ms. Omar. That same day, investigators said, a person presumed to be Mr. Little spray-painted “500” on a police vehicle assigned to a Somali officer and in an entryway to a shopping center known as the “Somali Mall.” The meaning of “500” was not clear, investigators said.

Starting in late December, the unnamed congressional representative received several messages from the same email address, court documents said. The emails included a picture of the representative’s door vandalized with “500” and a picture that showed “a Quran in a toilet being urinated on by a male.”

“Setting fire to a sacred facility, where children and families gather, is incredibly inhumane,” he said. “This level of blatant hatred cannot be tolerated.”

Chief O’Hara said that the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office arrested Mr. Little on Saturday after a dispatcher realized that a man they were transporting to a mental health facility, Mr. Little, was being sought by the Minneapolis police.

Mr. Little had a known history of arson or suspected arson and several documented incidents of domestic assault and other violent crimes, court documents said.

His mother, whose name was redacted in the affidavit, told law enforcement that she recognized her son in photos of surveillance footage taken of the two mosque fires and the acts of vandalism on Jan. 5.

She said that Mr. Little was fascinated by fire at a young age and that she thought he had been involved with unreported arsons because of times he had requested rides from different locations. He also harassed a Muslim woman while living in transitional housing, his mother told investigators.

Mr. Little appeared in court on Monday and is scheduled to attend a preliminary detention hearing on Thursday.

Mr. Little’s mother told investigators that her son had been fascinated by fire from a young age.Credit…U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota

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