Duluth, Minnesota
Duluth, MinnesotaiStock

A fire that destroyed a historic synagogue in northeastern Minnesota last week does not appear to have been a hate crime, authorities said Sunday, according to The Associated Press.

Matthew James Amiot, 36, of Duluth, was arrested Friday in the fire last week at the Adas Israel Congregation in downtown Duluth.

The city’s police chief, Mike Tusken, said at a news conference on Sunday that he has no reason to believe the fire was a hate crime, although the investigation is ongoing.

Police are recommending that prosecutors charge Amiot, who has no permanent address, with first-degree arson. A criminal complaint is expected to be filed mid-week, he said.

The blaze last Monday started in a shed outside the synagogue and spread into the building, fire Chief Shawn Krizaj said. No accelerants were found.

The fire left the synagogue in ruins, but firefighters were able to save several religious relics, including eight Torah scrolls.

Investigators from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were called in to assist in the investigation, which is standard when fires break out in places of worship.

Police previously have had “multiple contacts” with Amiot, but nothing that rose to the level of arson, the police chief said, according to AP.

Authorities are unaware if Amiot has had previous contact with the synagogue. He remains in jail, and it is unclear if he has an attorney who could speak for him.

The Adas Israel Congregation has 75 members and daily prayer services. Construction of the synagogue was completed in 1902.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said the city continues to offer “our heartfelt condolences” to the Adas Israel congregation and the entire Jewish community.

“This has been a very, very difficult week for this community,” Larson told reporters, according to AP.

Phillip Sher, past president of the synagogue, would not speculate on a motive. “We’re not out for vengeance. All I can find out of this event is sadness for everyone,” he said.

Sher said it was “extremely sad” for the congregation not to have a home for the Sabbath on Saturday. The charred ruins were released to the congregation on Thursday, and the congregation is exploring how to remove the building, he said.