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Arrest made in fire at Grand Forks Somali-owned restaurant

Matthew William Gust

FOSSTON, Minn. -- The suspect in last week’s arson attack on a Somali business in Grand Forks has been arrested.

Polk County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Matthew William Gust, 25, East Grand Forks, late Monday night at a Super 8 Motel in Fosston, according to a news release from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

On Friday, Grand Forks County prosecutors charged Gust with arson, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, after they say he threw a 40-ounce beer bottle filled with gasoline through the windows of Juba Coffee House and Restaurant on Dec. 8, starting a fire that caused an estimated $90,000 in damages.

No one was injured in the fire.

The motive in the arson attack still is unclear. Grand Forks Police Lt. Derik Zimmel said Tuesday detectives had not had the opportunity to question Gust. Zimmel previously told the Herald police would not speculate on a motive before questioning Gust.

Kyle Loven, a spokesman for the Minneapolis Division of the FBI, which includes North Dakota, said Tuesday the FBI is still investigating the fire to see if any federal laws were broken. Loven declined to say whether FBI detectives have questioned Gust.

There has been widespread speculation the attack was racially or religiously motivated, as it occurred just days after the words “go home” were spray-painted on the restaurant’s exterior below a Nazi-like symbol.

However, police have not yet linked the two incidents.

Gust was taken into custody without a fight and was booked at 12:45 a.m. Tuesday into Northwest Regional Corrections Center in Crookston, according to the release. An employee of the Super 8 Motel in Fosston declined to comment.

Gust had an extradition hearing Tuesday morning in Polk County District Court, at which he waived extradition, meaning he will be taken to the Grand Forks County jail in the coming days.

The Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Office is in charge of taking Gust to the county jail to face the arson charge here. Sgt. Chris Smith of the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department said Gust should arrive at the county jail by the end of the week.

An initial court date had not been set for Gust by the close of business hours Tuesday.