A Columbia Heights barber forced to close his longtime shop has been charged with setting fire to a different barber shop in Shoreview.
Dennis Manning, 55, was charged Friday in Ramsey County District Court with first- and second-degree arson in connection with the fire Wednesday evening at Pauly Ray's Sports Barbershop.
Manning was a barber at Sportsmen's Barbers in Columbia Heights for 22 years. He was forced to close last month after the owners of his building, which no longer meets code and is in need of a new fire sprinkler system, planned to sell. In a Nov. 11 Facebook post, Manning said he was eyeing a new location elsewhere in Columbia Heights.
On Wednesday, Ramsey County sheriff's deputies and the Lake Johanna Fire Department responded a little before 7 p.m. to reports of a fire inside Pauly Ray's. Crews made a forced entry and found the shop fully engulfed in smoke, according to the criminal complaint.
The fire had activated the shop's sprinkler system, which extinguished the flames, charges said. The floor was flooded with water from the sprinklers.
Firefighters traced the fire's origin to an area of the shop with video game setups. According to the charges, security footage shows Manning pulling a lighter out of his pocket and burning a cloth on top of a video game console before leaving. The fire grew for about 20 minutes before the sprinkler system activated, charges said.
The footage showed people inside the mall connected to the barbershop trying to open the doors to put out the fire, but they were locked, according to the complaint.
At 8 p.m., a deputy at the scene saw Manning on his phone and arrested him.
Manning allegedly told investigators that he set a string on a cloth on fire but thought he patted the cloth down to put it out, the complaint said.
Manning remained in Ramsey County jail as of Friday evening. His attorney did not return a request for comment.
The owner of Pauly Ray's told deputies he had previously worked at Manning's barbershop, the complaint said. The owner also said Manning had rented out a chair at Pauly Ray's to work for the last two days after Manning's business closed.
The owner said Manning had "repeatedly" asked him about opening a new barbershop together in Columbia Heights, but that he had no intention of closing his Shoreview location, the complaint said.
Messages to Pauly Ray's Barber Shop were not returned. The store's interior was "completely gutted" by smoke and water damage and had to close, the complaint said.
Friends of Manning's launched a GoFundMe last month to help reopen Sportsmen's Barbers in a new location. The online fundraiser had raised more than $8,500 of a $75,000 goal as of Friday. In his Facebook post, Manning said his plan was to use the money "to help renovate the space to make it the best barbershop for my clients."
Sportsmen's Barbers was known for its autographed sports memorabilia displays.