Minn. Man Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Firebombing Somali Restaurant in Hate Crime

Matthew Gust
Grand Forks County (N.D.) Correctional Center

A Minnesota man was sentenced to 15 years in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to a federal hate crime for starting a fire at a Somali restaurant in North Dakota, the Associated Press reports.

Prosecutors said that Matthew Gust did not like Somalis and did not want them living in the area. Gust, of East Grand Forks, Minn., made an explosive from a 40-ounce beer to start a fire at the Jumba Coffee House in nearby Grand Forks in December.


Gust's attorney had claimed that Gust was just trying to get even after he and a family member were robbed at gunpoint while working at a sandwich shop. Gust, the attorney said, thought the suspects were Somali.

"It is not an excuse. It is not a mitigating factor," defense attorney Ted Sandberg said. "This was his way of striking back at the people who robbed him and humiliated him."


Gust reportedly got the idea after he heard about someone spray-painting what has been described as a Nazi-like symbol on the cafe, along with the phrase "Go home." No one has been charged in that incident, which occurred three days before the firebombing.

"After a night of drinking and a day of ingesting meth, Gust created the Molotov cocktail and decided he would settle the score with the robbers by damaging their national associates' gathering place," Sandberg added. "He would burn the Juba Cafe."


The fire reportedly resulted in some $250,000 in losses, including damage to nearby businesses.

Read more at the Daily Progress

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