A Southwest Minneapolis man has been charged with breaking the windows of in CARAG because he believed the store sold “poison cigarettes.”
Matthew Aaron Christenson, 26, is charged with first-degree criminal damage to property, a felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Just before 4:30 a.m. June 12, every one of the seven display windows on Joe Liu's convenience store were smashed, along with windows of which the Liu family also owned.
The same assailant to Kyle's Market, police said. Liu said it cost over $3,000 to replace the broken windows, but community donations since the attacks have largely helped the family pay for replacements.
Police viewed surveillance video from the store, which showed a heavyset white man with a towel wrapped around his face in an effort to conceal his identity, according to the complaint. The man used a small mallet or hammer to hit the store’s windows about 30 times, but made no attempt to enter the store, the complaint says. Police had for information relating to the arrests, after releasing still images from the surveillance video of in the crimes.
According to the criminal complaint, signed by Minneapolis Police Sgt. James Jensen, police got a break when Liu got a call from the suspect on July 9. Identifying himself as “Matt,” the caller asked Liu to meet him at a nearby park. When the owner asked why the caller wanted to meet him, the man replied, “You know what this is about,” finally telling him that he was calling about “the Newport 100s” and adding, “This is why your store is all messed up – because you’re selling poison cigarettes,” according to the complaint.
In their investigation, police had explored many hypotheses, including the possibility that the crime was motivated by racism or ethnic bias.
The same day, Christenson came to the Minneapolis Police 5th Precinct headquarters to complain that his cigarettes had been tampered with at local convenience stores, and that Kyle’s Market was selling tainted cigarettes, the complaint says.
Police went to Christenson’s home in the 3600 block of Colfax Avenue South—about a block from Kyle’s Market—on July 11. Christenson told officers that he believed the cigarettes he had been buying from Kyle’s were tainted, and that he’d also bought a pizza that he thought was tainted with some kind of hallucinogenic substance, according to the complaint.
Christenson admitted to police that he has a bipolar disorder, but that he doesn’t take his medication because he believes it’s also tainted, the complaint says.
Police executed a search warrant at Christenson’s apartment on July 12 and found a large mallet with a metal head. The wooden handle of the mallet had gouges and what appeared to be glass fragments, according to the complaint. They also found a hand towel with masking tape fragments on its corners, and a large box containing numerous packages of unopened cigarettes, most of them Newport 100s.
Officers also found a notebook containing handwritten notes referring to the poisoning that Christenson claimed to have suffered. They also found a Minnesota Twins hat and a pair of wraparound sunglasses that appeared to match those worn by Christenson when he confronted a Kyle’s Market employee about the freshness of his cigarettes.
Christenson is free on a $10,000 bond. An omnibus hearing in his case is scheduled Sept. 19 in Hennepin County District Court.