Suspect charged in fire that destroyed Duluth synagogue

Published 6:08 am Tuesday, September 17, 2019

DULUTH— Prosecutors have charged a homeless man with causing a fire that destroyed a historic synagogue in northeastern Minnesota.

Thirty-six-year-old Matthew James Amiot was charged Monday with two counts of negligent fires. A judge set his bail at $20,000.

Amiot was arrested Friday in the fire last week at the Adas Israel Congregation in downtown Duluth. The police chief said Sunday that he didn’t believe the fire was a hate crime.

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According to the complaint, Amiot allegedly set fire to combustible materials in a small alcove between the synagogue and a religious structure called a sukkah. One firefighter was hit by falling debris and suffered a concussion. The building was a total loss.

The complaint says Amiot told investigators he tried to spit on the fire and walked away when it would not go out.

The Star Tribune reports that an attorney representing Amiot said in court that Amiot denies the allegations.