Rochester couple suspected of torching St. Paul school, stores during civil unrest are caught in Mexico

·3 min read

A Minnesota husband and wife accused in connection with fire to a St. Paul school during rioting in the Twin Cities last summer have been caught hiding out in Mexico and brought back to the United States, federal authorities say.

Jose A. Felan Jr. and Mena Dyaha Yousif, both of Rochester, appeared Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Diego, on charges related to the torching of two stores and Gordon Parks High School on University Avenue on May 28 during the unrest days after the death of George Floyd while in police custody in south Minneapolis.

Felan, 34, and Yousif, 22, were detained Monday by authorities in Mexico after the U.S. Marshals Service located them. Felan stands charged in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis with three counts of arson and Yousif with being an accessory to arson after the fact.

U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald for the District of Minnesota said in a statement that "these two defendants, who have been on the run for more than eight months, will be returned to Minnesota to face justice."

Messages were left Thursday with attorneys for both defendants seeking responses to the allegations.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) released photos and videos of Felan and Yousif last summer, along with a $20,000 reward for their capture, saying they were known to wear wigs, hair extensions and hats as disguises.

Along with the high school, located in the 1200 block of W. University Avenue, Felan and Yousif are accused of setting fire to a Goodwill store, in the same block as the school, and 7 Mile Sportswear, in the 500 block of W. University.

Charges filed last summer against a third defendant in the torching of the school, Mohamed Hussein Abdi, provide the most specific details yet to be disclosed about that alleged arson and Felan's alleged involvement.

Abdi, who was 19 at the time, and Felan were captured on surveillance video setting fire to the school, which serves disadvantaged youth. The complaint says Abdi, of Maplewood, was seen pouring clear liquid on the cafeteria floor and into a trash can before starting a fire using a "liquid-soaked garment."

Felan did the same outside the cafeteria door with a chemical he had in his messenger bag, the criminal complaint read.

Items recovered by ATF investigators from the charred school "were consistent with" items located at the targeted Goodwill store, where Felan was seen starting the fire minutes before the school was set ablaze, the charges against Abdi read.

Felan has a criminal record that includes drug offenses, burglary and aggravated assault, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

Felan and Yousif have hearings in San Diego scheduled for March 2 to address their eventual return to Minnesota. Resolution of Abdi's case is pending.

One of Felan's relatives, Leeroy Felan, was charged with helping them evade police in Carrizo Springs, Texas.

andy.mannix@startribune.com • 612-673-4036

paul.walsh@startribune.com • 612-968-2483

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