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United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald today announced a federal criminal complaint against BRANDEN MICHAEL WOLFE, 23, charging him with aiding and abetting arson at the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct. WOLFE will make his initial appearance on June 9, 2020, at 1 p.m. before Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota.
According to the allegations in the complaint, on the night of May 28, 2020, the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct was overrun and heavily damaged due to vandalism and arson. Investigators identified multiple separate fires had been started in the building. On June 3, 2020, St. Paul police officers responded to a home improvement store in St. Paul after receiving a complaint that an individual, later identified as WOLFE, wearing body armor and a law enforcement duty belt and carrying a baton was trying to get into the store. According to employees, WOLFE had been employed as a security guard at the store but was fired earlier that day after referring to social media posts about stealing items from the Third Precinct. Officers located WOLFE and took him into custody. At the time of the arrest, WOLFE was wearing multiple items stolen from the Third Precinct, including body armor, a police-issue duty belt with handcuffs, an earphone piece, baton, and knife. WOLFE’s name was handwritten in duct tape on the back of the body armor. Law enforcement later recovered from WOLFE’s apartment additional items belonging to the Minneapolis Police Department, including a riot helmet, 9mm pistol magazine, police radio, and police issue overdose kit.
According to the allegations in the complaint, during a law enforcement interview, WOLFE admitted to being inside the Third Precinct the night of the arson, to taking property from the building, and to pushing a wooden barrel into the fire. WOLFE also identified himself in multiple witness photographs depicting WOLFE in front of the Third Precinct holding a police baton, with smoke and flames visible in the background. In his statement to law enforcement, WOLFE confirmed that he pushed a wooden barrel into the fire, knowing that it would help keep the fire burning. Investigators recovered from the scene charred metal barrel rings.
The ATF and FBI urge the public to report suspected arson, use of explosive devices, or violent, destructive acts associated with the recent unrest. Anyone with information specifically related to the Third Precinct fire or other business fires in the Twin Cities can call 1-888-ATF-TIPS (1-888-283-8477), email ATFTips@atf.gov or submit information anonymously via ReportIt.com. In addition to fires, the FBI is looking for people who may have incited or promoted violence of any kind. Anyone with digital material or tips can call 1-800-CALLFBI (800-225-5324) or visit tips.fbi.gov.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted jointly by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the FBI, the St. Paul Police Department, the Minneapolis Police Department, and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Harry M. Jacobs and Joseph H. Thompson.
The charges contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
BRANDEN MICHAEL WOLFE, 23
St. Paul, Minn.
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United States Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota: (612) 664-5600