Former student arrested for setting St. Kate’s fires

| January 19, 2018 | 5 Comments

A former student of St. Catherine University in St. Paul has been arrested for starting eight small fires in seven of its buildings Jan. 17.

The woman, 19-year-old Tnuza Hassan, reportedly said she started the fires in retaliation to U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Jan. 19 statement from the university stated that its community was “shocked and saddened” by Hassan’s reported statements about her motives.

“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,” said President Becky Roloff in the statement. “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.”

Fires began around 11:40 a.m. and were found until about 2 p.m. As The Catholic Spirit previously reported, they were quickly extinguished in seven buildings and the “incidents included fires set to a chair and papers in a garbage can,” according to the university’s Twitter feed Jan. 17. The university later reported that there was damage to furnishings, but no structural damage. No one was injured.

The affected buildings were the Butler Center for Sports and Fitness; Coeur de Catherine; Derham Hall, an administration building; Fontbonne Hall and Mendall Hall, classroom buildings; Our Lady of Victory Chapel and St. Mary Hall, a dormitory.

According to a complaint charging her with one count of felony first-degree arson filed with the Ramsey County District Court, “Hassan said she started the fires because she’s been reading about the U.S. military destroying schools in Iraq and Afghanistan and she felt that she should do exactly the same thing. She said that her fire-starting was not as successful as she had wanted. She said the most successful fire she set was at Saint Mary’s where she set a couch on fire.”

According to the university, Hassan enrolled at St. Kate’s in fall 2017, but did not enroll for the university’s January term or spring 2018 semester. She was taken into custody on campus Jan. 17 within three hours of the first fire.

“We believe this was an isolated incident and are cooperating with law enforcement officials,” the university stated. “Our top concern is our students and the campus community. We are proud to be an open and welcoming University that embraces diversity. As such, we strongly believe that one person does not represent an entire group, and we deeply value all Muslim members of our community.”

Representatives from the university’s Muslim Student Association declined to comment on the incident.

According to the university’s registrar, 138 students, the majority of whom are in its College for Women, self-report as Muslim. St. Kate’s enrollment is about 4,800 students, including about 2,000 traditional undergraduate students.

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