RAMSEY COUNTY, Minn. (FOX 9) - A barber is accused of intentionally burning down a barbershop in Shoreview so the owner would open a new shop with him in Columbia Heights.
Dennis Manning, 55, was charged in Ramsey County on Friday with one count each of first-degree arson and second-degree arson in connection to a fire at Paul Ray’s Sports Barbershop in Shoreview on Nov. 29.
According to charging documents, Manning was seen on surveillance footage in the barbershop just before 6:30 p.m. when he allegedly pulled a lighter from his pocket and bent over near the gaming counter before quickly leaving.
A cloth was seen on fire on the top of the gaming console, and the blaze continued to burn and accelerate for about 20 minutes until the sprinkler system extinguished the flames, charges explained.
A deputy found Manning near the shop using his phone and said it appeared he was recording the scene or video chatting with someone. Law enforcement arrested Manning, who had a red lighter on him at the time, charges allege.
During the investigation, the owner of the barbershop told authorities Manning had been renting a chair for the past two days after he had to shut down his own barbershop in Columbia Heights.
"Unfortunately, we’ve are having to close our doors due to some hard-to-swallow circumstances that were out of our hands," Manning wrote on the Sportsmen’s Barbers Facebook Page in November.
Manning described himself as the "backbone" of the shop in Columbia Heights and claimed he was given a 45-day eviction notice by his landlord despite a "flawless 22-year record of paying our dues on time," the Facebook post from early November read.
Manning was trying to raise $75,000 with plans to move the business to a new location off Central Avenue in Columbia Heights, which required renovation, according to social media posts.
However, while speaking with investigators, Manning claimed he and the owner of Paul Ray’s Sports Barbershop planned to move the shop to that location and denied starting the fire as his belongings were inside.
"How would a lighter start them games on fire? Doesn’t make sense. Those are my games," Manning said, according to the charges.
Manning then claimed he actually did take out his lighter and used it to burn a string hanging down from the table cloth by the gaming consoles but "thought he patted it down" to prevent a fire from starting, charges allege.
The owner told investigators Manning had been repeatedly asking him about opening a shop in Columbia Heights, but he had no intention of closing his Shoreview location and moving.
Charges explain the owner believes Manning intentionally set the fire to close the business, making it easier to agree to start the new shop.
Manning made his first court appearance on the arson charges Friday afternoon.