Police make arrest in Sanford Hall fires

by Andrew Tellijohn

University police arrested a University student Sunday whom they suspect was connected with several incidents of arson in Sanford Hall over the past two weeks.
Sgt. Joe May said a 19-year-old University student who lives in Sanford Hall is currently in custody at Hennepin County Jail. The student has not been charged but is being held on probable cause for arson.
“We have one person in custody and we are continuing the investigation,” May said.
May had no comment about what led police to the freshman liberal arts student.
A fifth fire was set in a second floor kitchenette at approximately 11:30 Saturday night. A previous fire had been set in the same area, May said.
On Feb. 15 and 18, trash containers on the second floor of the building were set on fire. A third fire was started Feb. 22 in a laundry cart, while the fourth, last Tuesday, was in a bag of garbage in a second-story stairwell.
Ryan Fleming, an Institute of Technology freshman living in Sanford Hall, said there is a feeling of relief among the students.
“I hope it’s over,” Fleming said.
Being awakened in the early morning hours by fire alarms was wearing thin on the residents.
“People were getting pretty pissed,” he said. “They’re just getting sick of it.”
Even when there weren’t any fires or alarms, the possibility was weighing on the residents’ minds, he said. Two of the fires were set in the early morning hours on Tuesdays while the other two were early on Saturday mornings.
“(The fires) were almost on a schedule,” he said. “Those nights we kind of had it in the back of our minds.”
At a Sanford Hall meeting Feb. 23, Police Chief Joy Rikala said the department would push for the strictest possible penalties against parties convicted of setting the fires. The crime is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $35,000 fine.
Police recently set up a tip line for people to call with information on this or other cases. The number is (612) 626-8477.