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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Category: Local News

  • DebraBrunsberg


    • Charles C.

      What would have happened in an alternative situation? Say that there had been notes targeting women or blacks?

      If there had been a note about “N******” at the scene would the University have said:

      “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 White members of our

      Or would there have been seminars and conferences condemning White privelege, racism, and similar topics?

      Hassan was there for one semester. It is hard to believe that she was a serious student. Might it have been a way to gain access? I don’t know. But whatever her cause, she didn’t do it any good.

      She said she wanted to do more damage than she did. This is not proof that Islam is a religion based on conflict and violence, but it is one more small piece of evidence.

  • Charles C.

    Additional information from the Powerline blog:

    “Hassan did a lot of talking that will prove helpful to the prosecution of the case against her. She explained to police that ‘she wanted the school to burn to the ground and that her intent was to hurt people.’ She said similar attacks happened on ‘Muslim land’ and no one cared if Muslims were hurt.

    “Hassan also told police that she had written a letter to her roommates containing ‘radical ideas about supporting Muslims and bringing back the caliphate.’ And just to be clear, she also told authorities, ‘You guys are lucky that I don’t know how to build a bomb
    because I would have done that.’ Good to know.”

    There isn’t another religion out there today that has persuaded more people that killing innocents and conquest is in line with it’s teachings than Islam. It’s getting harder and harder to defend that religion when people like Hassan see themselves as faithful members.

    • B

      Sadly this article failed to or ignored the most significant information that was brought up by Charles C. about wanting to hurt/kill people with her fire and building bombs if she had the knowledge to do so. One fire was set in the building near the childcare center with more than a dozen children present, I believe.

      • Charles C.

        You’re quite correct.

        “She set one fire at St. Mary Hall, the school’s largest dorm. It houses
        first-year students (welcome to St. Kate’s!) and the Early Childhood
        Center, a day care facility. Hassan appears to have included St. Mary
        Hall on her rampage because of the day care facility. Thirty-three
        children and eight adults were at a day care in the building at the
        time, along with 10 to 15 students who were also evacuated.”

        “Her religious inspiration isn’t expressly stated, but she appeared in court yesterday wearing garb including a black face covering that exposed only her eyes and what appeared to be a large white sheet draped over her head.”

        “Bail has been set at $100,000. She was also ordered to stay away from the campus and surrender her passport. “