RED LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION — The Red Lake Police Department announced Monday on Facebook that an incident that occurred on Friday, April 30 is being investigated as an arson. On Friday, Native News Online reported that the Red Lake Police Department commented that the incident has been listed as a destruction of property incident. Because the Red Lake Indian Reservation is exempt from Public Law 280, all arsons fall in the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Explosive, and Firearms (ATF).

“The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Explosives, and Firearms is assisting the Red Lake Police Department in the investigation of the arson and potential further charges at the Federal level,” said Red Lake Director of Public Safety Michael Burns. 

The Red Lake Police Department said that at 4:29 a.m., a vehicle with an estimated value of $40,000 at the home of a residence was targeted by three arsonists on foot. As the vehicle caught fire, it exploded causing the nearby home to catch fire while EIGHT people were sleeping. There were no injuries to the car owner or the occupants of the residence. Damage to the exterior of the residence is still being evaluated.

The perpetrators remain at-large and considered a danger to the tribal community, but police have announced that preliminary identities have been made. However, further investigation is currently underway to confirm the identities of the arsonists. 

Video footage shared exclusively with Native News Online shows three individuals approaching a home at 4:29 a.m. on Friday, April 30 with a container that was set on fire and thrown under a vehicle at a resident. After the container was set on fire and thrown under the vehicle, one individual ran away while the other two continued to pour gasoline in the vehicle resulting in an explosion. The three individuals ran away from the fire, stopping to look at the fire briefly before escaping in the woods. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed in email to Native News Online that an arson on Friday, April 30 on the Red Lake Indian Reservation had not been reported to the agency. The Minnesota State Fire Marshall Jim Smith called Native News Online to share that because both the Minnesota Fire Marshall’s Office and the ATF are short-staffed, they would be both assisting the Red Lake Police Department in gathering evidence of the arson. 

“Arson isn’t just a tribal issue—we have this problem off the reservation, too,” Smith told Native News Online. “Arson is treated like a joke throughout the whole state and it’s not important until it happens to you.” 

This is a developing story.

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About The Author
Author: Darren Thompson
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a freelance journalist and based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, where he also contributes to Unicorn Riot, an alternative media publication. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.