A woman who formerly attended St. Catherine University is charged with setting six fires on the college's St. Paul campus after she told investigators she did it because she had "been reading about the U.S. military destroying schools in Iraq or Afghanistan and she felt that she should do exactly the same thing."
The criminal complaint filed Friday also revealed that 19-year-old Tnuza Jamal Hassan of Minneapolis told police "You guys are lucky that l don’t know how to build a bomb because l would have done that." Hassan was arrested Wednesday afternoon in a dorm lounge on campus.
Hassan appeared in Ramsey County District Court on a single count of first-degree arson. Thankfully, no injuries or major damage was reported from the fires, all of which were started on Wednesday. Ramsey County prosecutor Margaret Galvin said Hassan had "substantial ties" to the local community and added that investigators were still working to determine if she had international ties.
A spokesman for the FBI’s Minneapolis office would not comment on whether the FBI was investigating Hassan. A woman who said she was Hassan's older sister attended her first court hearing Friday but declined to comment. Hassan also has a mother in the area who did not appear to attend the hearing.
When Hassan appeared in court Friday, she was wearing a black and white hijab and only gave brief, one-word answers to the judge. The criminal complaint against her revealed she told investigators she set a total of six fires on the private Catholic university's campus. University and fire officials believed there were eight fires.
The most serious of the blazes were started in Saint Mary Hall where 33 children and eight adults were inside. Hassan set a chair on fire but it triggered the building's sprinkler system which stopped the fire from spreading. She also set a second fire at the Butler Center fitness facility in a women's bathroom.
Investigators confirmed it was Hassan who set the fires using surveillance footage that captured her at the scene. She told investigators she dropped out at St. Catherine to go on vacation to Ethiopia with her family last fall. The criminal complaint also added, "Hassan said this was the same thing that happened in ‘Muslim land’ and nobody cares if they get hurt, so why not do this."
St. Catherine President Becky Roloff issued a statement saying, "In addition to my sadness, I have a tremendous amount of gratitude knowing that all of our students, faculty, staff, and other community members are safe. I am eternally grateful to those who reported the fires immediately, to our university Public Safety, and to local law enforcement who acted quickly and effectively to respond to this situation and keep us safe."
Hassan has no prior history of arrest in Minnesota and was jailed at the Ramsey County Jail on $100,000 bail. If Hassan makes bail she is ordered to keep away from St. Kate's campus.
Tips? Info? Send me a message!