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Two charged in separate arson incidents in St. Paul

Mohamed Hussein Abdi, 19, and Matthew Scott White, 31, appeared in U.S. District Court on Tuesday in St. Paul.
Credit: Anoka County Jail

ST PAUL, Minn. — A Minneapolis man and a Maplewood man have both been federally charged with arson in two separate incidents in St. Paul.

U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald announced on Tuesday that Matthew Scott White, 31, was arrested on Monday, June 29 in connection with a fire set at an Enterprise Rent-A-Car building in St. Paul. Both incidents occurred on May 28 as protests erupted throughout the Twin Cities following the death of George Floyd.

Mohamed Hussein Abdi, 19, was also arrested Monday, June 29 in connection with a fire set at the Gordon Parks High School in St. Paul.

White made his first appearance in federal court Tuesday on a charge of arson. According to the allegations in the complaint against White, the car rental building was destroyed by the fire, which was captured by surveillance video from cameras both inside and outside the business.

The video shows White, his sister and alleged co-conspirator Jessica White and another individual outside the business the night of the fire. Matthew White can then be seen entering the building for several minutes while Jessica White stood outside. Video shows Jessica White knocking on the front window and looking into the front door.

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While inside the building, video shows Matthew White carrying a box and a garbage can into the back area of the business, which is out of the view of the camera. Shortly after, fire can be seen flickering in the reflection of the window in the front of the business, the complaint says.

Matthew White and the other individual eventually exit the building and join Jessica White and others outside the business in watching the fire.

According to the allegations in the criminal complaint against Abdi, he was seen in surveillance video with another individual intentionally setting a fire in a trash can inside the school cafeteria.The footage shows Abdi reaching through broken glass and pouring clear liquid from a white container on the floor of the cafeteria. Abdi continued to pour the liquid in a trash can before igniting a fire inside the trash can using a "liquid-soaked garment," the release said.

Surveillance footage also reportedly shows Abdi running from the building as flames and black smoke billowed out from the trashcan.

Both Abdi and Matthew White appeared in U.S. District Court on Tuesday in St. Paul.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) said they are investigating over 150 fires in the Twin Cities.

Anyone with information specifically related to business fires in the Twin Cities can call 1-888-ATF-TIPS (1-888-283-8477), email ATFTips@atf.gov or submit information anonymously via ReportIt.com. In addition to fires, the FBI is looking for people who may have incited or promoted violence of any kind. Anyone with digital material or tips can call 1-800-CALLFBI (800-225-5324) or submit images or videos at Tips.FBI.gov.

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