Federal charges filed against Minneapolis mosque arson suspect

Federal charges filed against Minneapolis mosque arson suspect

Federal charges filed against Minneapolis mosque arson suspect

The man arrested for fires started at two Minneapolis mosques is now facing federal charges for arson.

A criminal complaint released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office names 36-year-old Jackie Rahm Little, also known as Joel Arthur Tueting, of Plymouth, as the arson suspect in both the fire last Sunday at Masjid Omar Islamic Center and Monday’s fire at Masjid Al Rahma Mosque inside the Mercy Islamic Center.

Minneapolis city leaders and law enforcement held a news conference on federal charges being filed against the man accused of starting fires at two Minneapolis mosques in the past week.

“It’s been really scary for the community. Definitely a wakeup call for sure,’ Sen. Zaynab Mohamed, DFL-Minneapolis, said.

For the last week, the Muslim community has been on high alert, after fires were set in two separate mosques in Minneapolis.

“They just keep asking, ‘Do we continue going to the mosque the way we were? How do we know he will not come back?’ We’re afraid,” Mohamed said.

Mohamed calls the Muslim community resilient. Worshippers still showed up to the mosques to practice their religion even when their faith was the target.

“Let this be a lesson to anyone who seeks to inflict hate upon our residents. We will not tolerate that. We will remove you from our streets and ensure you are brought to justice,” Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara said.

There will be changes moving forward.

O’Hara said Sunday the department is adding enhanced patrols near places of worship and ensuring a swift response if someone calls 911 from a house of worship.

Local leaders said partnerships on the local, state and federal level made the arrest possible.

Because of incidents like these, lawmakers are hoping to make changes on the state level.

In the State Capitol, Mohamad introduced a bill this month that aims to improve the reporting and tracking of hate crime incidents. The measure would also give law enforcement training to better identify crimes motivated by bias.

Court documents state that Little started a fire inside the bathroom of the Masjid Omar Islamic Center at about 7 p.m. on Sunday, April 23. There is also surveillance footage of Little entering the Masjid Al Rahma Mosque just before 7 p.m. on Monday, April 24, right before a fire broke out on the third floor, causing the building to be evacuated.

Prior to the two arsons, the complaint states that Little was allegedly seen on surveillance footage going into the Minneapolis district office of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar. He then spray-painted “500” on the front door of the representative’s office and took a photo of the graffiti. The complaint states that later in the same day, Little spray-painted “500” on the side of a patrol vehicle that was assigned to a Somali Minneapolis Police Department officer as well as inside the entryway of a market inside Somali Mall.

His initial court appearance is set for Monday, May 1.

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PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Minneapolis police announced the arrest of a man suspected of starting a fire inside at least one mosque in the past week.

Jackie Rahm Little is charged with second-degree arson in connection with a fire at Mercy Islamic Center on Monday. He could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison or a $20,000 fine or both if convicted.

Police are also investigating another arson at a mosque in Minneapolis, which occurred on Sunday at Masjid Omar Islamic Center inside the 24 Somali Mall.

No injuries were reported in either fires.

RELATED: Minneapolis man charged with arson in Monday fire at Mercy Islamic Center

Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara released the following statement on the arrest:

“Earlier this week, an arsonist set fire to two occupied houses of worship in South Minneapolis. This heinous act was an attempt to inflict terror onto our Muslim community. Houses of worship should be safe places. Setting fire to a sacred facility, where families and children gather, is incredibly inhumane. And this level of blatant hatred will not be tolerated in our great city.

Thanks to the tireless work of Minneapolis Police, the US Attorney’s Office, FBI, ATF, and all our law enforcement and community partners; the suspect from these crimes has been safely arrested and taken into custody. Based on our investigation, there is no other known, active threat to our Muslim neighbors.

Let this be a lesson to anyone who seeks to cause harm through acts of hate. We will find you. We will remove you from our streets. And we will ensure you are held accountable.

The Minneapolis Police Department is committed to keeping all people safe, and to protecting the Constitutional right of Freedom of Religion for every resident and visitor in our city. And we will ensure that the full weight of the law enforcement community is leveraged to swiftly bring justice to anyone who would dare try to inflict hate on our community.”

RELATED: Authorities investigating 2 mosque fires in consecutive days in Minneapolis

Surveillance footage shows a man, later identified as Little, entering the Mercy Islamic Center with a bag that contained a gas can, according to the criminal complaint.

A short time later, a staff member saw a fire in a hallway on the building’s top floor. A melted gas can was later found at the site of the fire.

Police found surveillance video at a nearby gas station showing Little buying a gas can and then filling it with gas on the day of the arson.

Court records indicate Little has been civilly committed due to mental illness on multiple occasions beginning in April 2021. At least one instance was related to alleged arson.

According to one court filing in December 2021, Little “was picked up by Bloomington Police on four pending charges of arson in Bloomington and three pending charges of arson in Minneapolis.”

Little “reportedly got into separate conflicts with individuals he was staying with at separate times that escalated into setting flames to the homes,” the civil commitment filing states.

Little was charged with one alleged arson incident in December 2021, but was found incompetent by the court, according to records.