The Hennepin County Medical Examiner has publicly identified the man whose remains were found in the wreckage of a south Minneapolis pawnshop torched during riots following George Floyd's death.
Oscar Lee Stewart Jr., 30, died of "probable inhalation of products of combustion and thermal injury," authorities said Tuesday. His death was ruled a homicide.
Investigators discovered the Burnsville man's body in the rubble of Max It Pawn, at 2726 E. Lake St., on July 20 — nearly two months after the building was set ablaze during widespread civil unrest.
A 25-year-old Rochester man, Montez Terrill Lee, was federally charged last month with arson in connection with the fire. It's not immediately clear whether he will face additional charges.
Law enforcement has not yet presented a case on the homicide to the Hennepin County Attorney's Office for consideration, a spokesman said.
According to the criminal complaint against Lee, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigators received video from an anonymous source of an arson that occurred at the pawnshop. In the first clip, a masked man, later identified as Lee, is seen pouring liquid from a metal container throughout the pawnshop. A second video shows Lee standing in front of the burning pawnshop saying "We're gonna burn this … down."
As smoke began billowing out of the building, a man yelled inside to see if anyone was still there, witnesses later recounted to the Star Tribune. When a voice called back, several frantic bystanders tried in vain to pull down the plywood panels and see inside. They shined flashlights through the small open window and told the person to crawl toward them.
Eventually, the cries for help ceased.
By the time firefighters arrived, the building was fully engulfed. Responders entered the side and attempted a search but were forced to call it off as the structure's condition deteriorated.
After receiving a tip, local and federal officials combed through the debris again in July, where they discovered Stewart's body.
He is remembered as doting father and friend, according to a GoFundMe account set up by relatives. Stewart leaves behind five children, ages 12 to 1.
"He was always willing to help someone," wrote his older sister, Delois McGee. "If he could help in any kind of way he would. Willingly!!! Without any judgment."
The family is asking for donations to help send his body back to Jackson, Miss., for burial.
Stewart's death is at least the second fatality connected to the riots.
Staff writer Libor Jany contributed to this report.
Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648