Jeron Patterson, a 29-year-old Minneapolis man with no prior criminal record, was arrested yesterday for the arson that damaged the former home of Gov. Mark Dayton.
At 2 a.m. July 2, Patterson set three different fires to the outside of the house on Lake Harriet Parkway, according to a complaint filed by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office. Patterson's supplies for the arson, which he left at the scene, were traced back to purchases he made at Target using his own debit card.
Police used surveillance video from the Target on Nicollet Mall, where Patterson bought gas cans and lighter fluid, and two trips to a Super America, where he picked up more than four gallons of gas, according to the complaint.
There is no evidence in the complaint linking Patterson's arson attempt to the fact that Dayton once lived there.
The current homeowner might be alive only because he was having a late night. As he sat inside his house around 2 a.m., he "heard what sounded like a 'poof' outside and then saw a bright light or flash outside along his house." When he went outside, the man found fires burning on different parts of the house, including two at separate entrances to the home.
Oddly, the man found his water hose already running, and used it to put out the small fires. Neither he nor anyone else inside was harmed in the fire. Just outside his gate, which was left open, the homeowner found a brand new suitcase that held two gas cans, one of them full, four bottles of Kingsford lighter fluid, and two grill lighters.
Investigators spotted a Target tag on the inside of the new suitcase, and Target corporate investigators were able to trace the suitcase and other items to a purchase the morning of July 1, about 15 hours before the fire was set.
The same debit card was used to buy about four and a half gallons of gas at a SuperAmerica, where Patterson also picked up two cartons of cigarettes, according to the complaint.
Patterson spent more than $250 for his arson. He's now held in Hennepin County Jail on $60,000 bail, and facing a charge of first-degree arson, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison or a $20,000 fine.