Man sentenced for arson after Floyd’s death; growth continues in St. Paul neighborhood

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A 36-year-old Rochester man has been sentenced to more than six years in federal prison for intentionally starting fires at multiple buildings in St. Paul following the death of George Floyd.

Jose Angel Felan, Jr., was sentenced Tuesday in Federal Court to 78 months in prison.

Prosecutors say Felan set fire to a Goodwill store, Gordon Parks High school and 7 Mile Sportswear store along University Avenue.

There was nearly a foot of water inside 7 Mile Sportswear after the sprinklers turned on during the fire, according to owner Jin Lim.

The civil unrest from Floyd’s murdered fueled the damage to businesses along University Avenue in May of 2020.

“Everybody was angry,” Lim said. “I didn’t think why, why it happened to me, never think about that, rebuilt it.”

The businessman had moved from Chicago to St. Paul only one-year before.

Since the fire, and other damage done inside from the unrest, Lim said he’s come back with an even bigger store that before.

“I loved this area,” Lim said as to why he wanted to stay.

At the time of the arson, Gordon Parks High School students were trying to process Floyd’s death, said Robin Hickman-Winfield, Park’s great-niece.

“To have to deal with that tragedy, and to deal with torching of the school,” Hickman-Winfield said. “It was devastating.”

Hickman-Winfield say Parks’ spirit as a humanitarian committed to social justice became a teaching moment for the students.

“Helping them press through the devastation — the devastation of brother Floyd’s death — and his spirit extinguished the flames — his legacy armored all of us up to build and move forward,” Hickman-Winfield said.

“We’re seeing a lot of re-development — and apartments going up,” said Chad Kulas, Executive Director at the Midway Chamber of Commerce. Kulas credits the community’s spirit which has led to continued growth since the unrest.

“Through support of people in the community and other groups, they made the decision a lot of them to come back,” Kulas said.