MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A 24-year-old South St. Paul man is accused of intentionally setting grass fires in a South St. Paul park, according to charges filed Monday in Dakota County Court.
Chad Steven Johnson was charged with felony arson in connection with the July 31 incident.
According to a criminal complaint, South St. Paul police were called to the 1000 block of Bryant Avenue on a report of a suspicious man trying to set grass on fire at Kaposia Landing Park. When authorities arrived, they learned a witness spotted the man setting grass on fire and it was burning. When the suspect saw him, he fled the scene.
Officers learned that Johnson was the possible suspect in the case. They went to his residence and asked him if he had been at the park. He replied by saying “I did not light the fire,” the complaint states. The witness later identified Johnson as the man he saw and he was arrested.
Johnson told police he had been sleeping since 8 p.m. that day, and when officers asked why he brought up the fires without being asked, he said “I’m very good at communicating without speaking,” the complaint states.
Johnson told police he was being set up, but didn’t provide the name of the person he believed was setting him up. He denied being at the park the day of the fires. When authorities took Johnson to jail, he had them lock up his apartment. They found his keys in his bedroom in a pair of jeans near a back pack that was described by the witness at the scene of the fires. A lighter was found in Johnson’s Jeans. If convicted, Johnson faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.