This story was originally published on June 11, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Brooklyn Park business owner is struggling to reopen after her store was targeted by arsonists.

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It happened just days after the police shooting death of Daunte Wright in April. Surveillance video from Letia Blade’s store shows two people breaking in and dumping a flammable liquid on the floor, then setting it on fire.

The ATF has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the arsonists.

“Seeing those videos really, really broke my heart because I put a lot of time and energy into my store,” said Letia.

And for Letia the timing couldn’t have been worse. She’s the owner of Top 2 Bottom, a store that specializes in men’s formal wear.

After losing business to the pandemic last year, she was getting ready for what was supposed to be a busy prom and wedding season.

“Another person came here, shaking something flammable and let it on fire,” said Letia.

Her business was one of three set on fire at the K & J Shopping Center during the early morning hours of April 19.

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Her one saving grace is that the sprinkler system kicked in and likely saved her store from burning down.

But water and smoke damage are forcing Letia to start over.

“I kind of watched it over and over again to see if I’ve seen the person before, or they happened to come into the store,” said Letia.

What might be most baffling is that no money was taken out of the cash register and no merchandise was taken from inside her store.

“You can’t be going around and burning up people’s property. Whatever issues do you have with the world, individual business owners have nothing to do with that,” Letia said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Letia rebuild, something she definitely plans to do, while also trying to put the morning of April 19 behind her.

“To have your store burned down for no reason at all. To take away your livelihood, your ability to feed your family and service your community, because I love what I do. And my customers love what I do,” Letia said.

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She hopes to be able to reopen for business this fall.

John Lauritsen