Sep. 9—A homeless man was charged Thursday with lighting a St. Paul apartment on fire with people inside.
Matthew Ryan Gieske, 38, was charged with first-degree arson in the Ramsey County District Court.
According to the criminal complaint, Gieske approached a tenant outside an apartment building in the 1600 block of Marion Street in St. Paul's North End neighborhood.
The tenant was familiar with Gieske and knew he "had displayed odd behavior in the past," the complaint states. When Gieske pointed a knife at the man and his sister, the man clicked his handgun's safety and asked Gieske to get away from them, according to the complaint.
He left, but came back later and tried to get into the man's second-floor apartment, according to the complaint. The man looked out his peephole and saw Gieske and heard the noise of someone shaking a lighter fluid can.
The man saw Gieske holding something, possibly a lighter, in his hand and then saw flames rush up his door. The flames entered his apartment over and underneath the door, the complaint states. The man escaped via his balcony.
Police recovered a partially melted gas can in the hallway and noted that the building was severely damaged by fire.
Gieske has prior terroristic threats and felon in possession of a firearm convictions. As of Thursday, he was in the Ramsey County Jail. His next court appearance is Oct. 21.