Suspect awaiting trial

A southeast Minneapolis man is in jail this week awaiting trial on charges of first-degree arson and second-degree murder.
Shane Matthew Knapp, 20, is being held on $500,000 bail for allegedly torching the apartment building he lived in to collect on his renter’s insurance policy, according to court documents.
Knapp was charged Aug. 9 in Hennepin County Court for setting fire on Aug. 5 to 301 University Ave. S.E., killing 18-year-old Letu Hayato. He is also suspected in two other fires in the building this summer.
After giving a statement at Minneapolis police headquarters late on Aug. 5, Knapp was arrested and booked at Hennepin County Jail. He told police he wanted to please his girlfriend, who had pressured him about money, according to the criminal complaint filed against him.
Knapp’s 19-year-old girlfriend, who was arrested Aug. 5 at the Bloomington restaurant where she and Knapp worked, was released from jail Aug. 9 and has not been charged. She and Knapp lived together in his third-floor apartment until shortly before the fires earlier this month.
Investigators said an accelerant was used in the Aug. 5 blaze. Knapp told police that he started the fire by pouring gasoline throughout the third-floor hallway.
Police investigating the fire said they found a melted gasoline container in the hallway. Burn patterns in the third-floor carpet also indicated arson, investigators said.
Knapp has lived in the third-floor apartment at 301 University Ave. S.E. for at least three years, according to court records. He has six traffic violations, but prior to the murder and arson charges Knapp had no adult criminal record in Hennepin County.
Residents at 301 University Ave. S.E., including many University students, awoke to the fire at about 4 a.m. Aug. 5. Fire alarms sounded, but because the building is only three stories high, municipal building codes do not require sprinklers and none were installed.
About 30 firetrucks were on the scene, said Minneapolis Fire Department spokesman Dick Turner. Although the fire was not severe, the smoke was thick and many firefighters needed to rescue trapped residents.
“The people that were trapped inside were screaming, and sirens were wailing,” said Pamela Harvey, who lives on the third floor of the building. “There was a figure of a lady holding a baby in one of the windows.”
Minneapolis firefighters found Hayato’s body in a third-floor hallway during rescues which successfully evacuated more than 35 other residents from the burning building. Several tenants and a firefighter sustained minor injuries, said Turner.
Hayato, who lived in apartment 301 with her family, suffered severe burns and died from the fire, according to the criminal complaint. Her death has been ruled a homicide.
A recent eastern African emigrant, Hayato had spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp after fleeing war in Ethiopia, a family friend told the Star Tribune.
She woke her family before trying to escape down the apartment’s stairwell.
Her body was found near the stairwell where she had been overcome by smoke and heat, according to the report. The rest of her family was rescued from their apartment window by firefighters.
Police said Knapp also admitted he started the Aug. 4 fire in the building’s laundry room by soaking a blanket with lighter fluid and lighting it. He said he started the Aug. 4 fire in the room because he believed chemicals and dryer lint would be very flammable.
Knapp is also suspected in a June 27 fire started in a third-floor storage area, causing a great deal of smoke and water damage but no injuries.
Although police say Knapp admitted to starting the Aug. 4 fire, he has only been charged with one count of arson.