MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A 36-year-old man has been charged with hate crimes and property damage after several Somali-owned businesses in Minneapolis had their windows smashed last week.
Harlin St. John, of Minneapolis, faces two counts of first-degree property damage, two counts of second-degree property damage because of bias and one count of third-degree property damage because of bias. The damage caused to the businesses is estimated at more than $8,000.
“I don’t know what made him wake up at 4 in the morning and just destroy people’s lives,” said Saida Mohamed, owner of Lakes Pharmacy.
She’s replaced her window, but the fear resurfaced after learning St. John is charged with hate crimes related to the property damage.
“You can’t change who you are, you are who you are, ut it’s just scary. Right now I’m like really, he was coming at us. He wasn’t just vandalizing. He was coming at us, attacking us,” Mohamed said
According to the criminal complaint, a witness who lives in an apartment above the row of businesses in the Seward neighborhood told police she heard glass breaking in the early morning hours of Sept. 18 and saw a white man throwing rocks at the businesses.
In a statement, investigators say St. John admitted to breaking the windows, claiming he did so in retaliation for someone shooting at his family members and he believed those who did were Somali. According to charging documents, St. John told officers “Somali people are selling meth and heroin to Native people” and he hates “the Somalis.”
“It is what we feared the most, that this was a specifically targeted these businesses for being Muslim and Somali,” said Jaylani Hussein, with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Hussein believes the charges send a message that hate is unacceptable.
“This neighborhood will come together and will continue to fight and challenge this hate and bigotry,” Hussein said.
Other cases have been submitted to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, and officials say additional charges are likely.
St. John is expected to make his first court appearance Monday.