Two men have been charged in U.S. District Court after they allegedly caused damage at the Dakota County Western Service Center in Apple Valley with fire and explosive materials.
Fornandous Cortez Henderson and Garrett Patrick Ziegler have been charged with each aiding and abetting the other; maliciously damaged by means of fire and explosives, and knowingly and intentionally possessed firearms.
According to a criminal complaint, police and federal law enforcement officials believe the following occurred:
The Apple Valley Police Department was dispatched to a fire alarm at the Western Service Center in the early morning hours of May 29. Apple Valley officers found broken windows and saw smoke and flames coming from the west side of the building. Police officers were able to put out the fires with fire extinguishers before the fire department arrived, which limited the amount of smoke and fire damage. The building had “considerable” damage from the sprinkler system that was activated by the fire. The interior of the building had numerous areas of fire and smoke damage and several burned items including blinds, picture frames and office equipment.
Apple Valley officers heard voices in a neighboring business parking lot on the west side of the Western Service Center before extinguishing the fire. Officers found a set a Ford car keys in the grass between the Western Service Center and the parking lot and determined they belonged to a Ford Fiesta registered to Ziegler. Police also found two baseball bats and a flexible cooler leaned against the driver’s side door of the Fiesta. The car was towed and officers obtained a search warrant on May 29.
Apple Valley police officers found two men, later identified as Henderson and Ziegler, walking on County Road 42 within two blocks of the Western Service Center minutes after putting out the fire.
“Ziegler was breathing heavily and was sweaty which was not consistent with the outside temperature. When officers attempted to interact with Henderson and Ziegler they were both uncooperative and evasive,” the complaint said. “Officers determined that they need to detain these two males for further questioning and attempted to do so.”
Police ordered Henderson and Ziegler to stop but they continued walking away from officers. Henderson fled and was apprehended a short distance away. Ziegler was found carrying a knife and Henderson was carrying a lighter.
Henderson allegedly told police during an interview that he had been with Ziegler from about 9 p.m. May 28 until they were apprehended on May 29. He claimed he and Ziegler traveled to 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis, the site of the incident involving George Floyd, by Metro Transit. They participated in protests for about 45 minutes and returned to Apple Valley via Metro Transit and apprehended by officers soon after.
Law enforcement did not believe Henderson’s account of his whereabouts at the time was credible, in part, because Metro Transit ceased bus and train operations on 4 p.m. May 28 due to the civil unrest after Floyd’s death.
An Apple Valley police detective photographed Henderson and Ziegler on May 29 and swabbed their hands for residue. The detective noticed fresh, dark soot on both defendants’ hands.
Apple Valley police executed a search warrant of Ziegler’s Ford Fiesta. A detective found a Target Ridgedale receipted dated May 28 for three scarves priced at $3 each; numerous loose push pins, a black bandanna and red bandanna, both with an attached $3 price tag; partial full and empty boxes of push pins; an empty box for 12 Ball mason jars; an empty Kingsford brand lighter fluid bottle, Swan 70 percent isopropyl alcohol bottles; a plastic jar containing a clear unidentified liquid and T-pins, and a Walmart receipt dated May 27 for nail polish.
A detective contacted Target Corp., which confirmed Ziegler was an employee at their Minnetonka store at 13201 Ridgedale Drive. The items purchased on the Target receipt found in the Fiesta had been paid for with Ziegler’s Target debit card.
Apple Valley police and fire officials examined the Western Service Center and found that the building had numerous broken windows on the west side of the building where the judges’ chambers and clerks’ officers were located.
“Several windows appeared to be broken, each in multiple locations, indicating numerous attempts were made to break the windows,” the complaint states.
A broken glass container and a charred red bandanna was found below a law clerk’s window on the west exterior side of the building. A Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent said in the complaint the items, when combined with an accelerant and an ignition source, are consistent with those used in Molotov cocktails.
An empty Equate nail polish remover bottle was found on the west side of the building between where Ziegler’s Ford Fiesta and the service center. The nail polish remover had a bar code matching the Walmart receipt found inside the Fiesta.
An Apple Valley detective found additional broken class consistent with Ball Jars and liquor bottles; push pins, and intact glass jars containing ignitable liquid and push pins.
On May 30, Federal Bureau of Investigation special agents conducted a field analysis of some unknown substances found at the scene for a presumptive result. A sample found from one of the “destructive devices” found in the service center was identified as propanol. A sample taken from the jar of liquid and push pins found in Ziegler’s car was found to contain 94 percent propanol and 2 percent ethanol.
“Propanol and ethanol are both highly flammable substances that can be easily ignited with an open flame, such as a match or lighter, making them well-suited for use in Molotov cocktails,” the complaint says. “Ethanol is a common ingredient in nail polish remover and charcoal lighter fluid, whereas propanol is a common ingredient in isopropyl alcohol.”
An ATF fire investigator examined the Western Service Center scene on May 30 and found at least four separate and distinct areas of origin with no communication between each of the individual fires. The investigator noted that each destructive device found at the scene consisted of a glass container filled with an ignitable liquid and a red bandanna acting as a wick. The fires were classified as “incendiary” because of the discovery of used and intact Molotov cocktails. A Molotov cocktail is considered a destructive device and firearm and are required to be registered with the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record which is maintained by the ATF.
The ATF searched the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record on May 31 and could find no record of Henderson or Ziegler having lawfully registered any firearms or destructive devices that require registration under the National Firearms act. Minnesota court records indicate that Henderson has prior convictions for misdemeanor obstructing legal process- interfering with a peace officer in 2013 and 2016 in Dakota County, and attempt to commit second-degree burglary of a dwelling in Dakota County in 2014. He’s also been convicted of misdemeanor traffic violations and disorderly conduct.
Ziegler’s prior convictions are for petty misdemeanor traffic violations including speeding and stopping and parking within a bicycle lane in Hennepin County between 2017 and 2019, according to court records.