A suspect entered the Church of Scientology library in downtown St. Paul Tuesday night, splashed presumed accelerants on some books and set them ablaze, according to police.
The fire was quickly extinguished and no one was injured. Police spokesman Steve Linders said the suspect, a man who had attended the church until administrators removed him for being “disorderly and threatening to assault members,” remains at-large.
“The investigation’s continuing, and we’re trying to locate the suspect,” Linders said.
The man is not suspected in any other vandalism against the church, he said.
The fire, which authorities are labeling as arson, occurred about 9:30 p.m. at 505 Wabasha Street N.
According to police: A female church member was sitting at a desk in the second-floor bookstore when she saw the suspect enter. The woman asked him if he needed any help, but he did not respond.
“He then removed a jug from his backpack and splashed an unknown liquid on some books,” Linders said.
The woman told police she saw flames and smoke, and ran to retrieve a fire extinguisher as other members called 911. The suspect fled.
The fire was quickly extinguished. It’s unclear how much damage the fire caused, Linders said.
The suspect is known to the church, and had attended it for “a few months” until the church removed him for his behavior, Linders said.
He had previously taken a wheelchair that did not belonged to him and “was rolling around the building,” had been arrested in a drug case in Hennepin County and was trespassed from church property on March 16, Linders said.
In a statement, church officials said damage was limited to the bookstore, and credited the quick action from staff members to prevent the fire from spreading.
“The Church would like to thank the police