MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The riots following the death of George Floyd caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.
According to St. Paul Fire Department Deputy Chief Roy Mokosso, 86 buildings burned over the course of just three days. So far, three people have been arrested for starting some of those fires.
“Ignitable liquids were utilized in all, mostly all of these fires,” Mokosso said. “These are traumatic events. I think our community has suffered.”
Seventy-two hours of burning, looting and destruction brought the fire department three months’ worth of work in three days.
“It’s overwhelming, it’s an overwhelming task,” Mokosso said. “Forty-eight hours after the major incidents in St. Paul had occurred, we had an ATF team on the ground, 30 to 40 individuals supporting our investigations here in St. Paul.”
Help from the ATF and State Fire Marshal’s officer are helping. Three have been arrested and charged in connection to St. Paul’s fires. And more persons of interest identified — but they’re not done yet. Sgt. Michael Ernster of the St. Paul Police Department says they want help to catch the culprits.
“On the police side, we know that people have been victimized in this city and we want to hear from them,” Ernster said.
Surveillance footage is helping to solve these crimes. St. Paul police want people to submit online reports or video that may be helpful.
“We will be able to take those, put them in the puzzle that they belong to, and hopefully solve crimes and find justice for these victims,” Ernster said. “With the looting and things like that, burglary would be a very common charge, and that would be felony.”
Responding to nearly 600 calls for service in three days took its toll on the department. Three firefighters were hurt.
“I think it’s going to take us a while and I think it’s going to take the community a while to recover,” Mokosso said.
But for the St. Paul Fire Department, part of that recovery is knowing their work will produce results.
“We will continually to respond and work to preserve life, property and … investigate all the fires and make sure that those responsible are held accountable,” Mokosso said.
St. Paul Fire says at least five buildings in the city have been razed because of structural instability caused by the fires.
State leaders say it cost nearly $13 million to bring the Minnesota National Guard in to respond to the riots. Both Gov. Tim Walz and Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington say they’re not surprised by that number. Commissioner Harrington says his department is still calculating the cost of bringing in Minnesota State Patrol troopers, the Department of Natural Resources and other agencies.
Click here to submit videos and online reports to St. Paul Police. The ATF and FBI also urge the public to report suspected arson, use of explosive devices, or violent, destructive acts associated with the recent unrest. 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 (800-225-5342) or submit images or videos at FBI.gov/violence.