For Immediate Release
ATF prepares local prosecutors for their next arson case
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The St. Paul Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) conducted an arson for prosecutors course this week, April 23-25, put together by ATF’s National Center for Explosives Training and Research and hosted here at the Bloomington Fire Department.
The course allowed attendees a first-hand look at the unique challenges of arson prosecutions and aimed to support both investigators and prosecutors with tools and resources needed to successfully prosecute cases of suspected arson.
“Arson is challenging to prove, but with a thorough understanding of the technical and legal aspects specific to arson cases, these folks will be better prepared for when they try their next case,” said Senior Special Agent and Certified Fire Investigator D. Wade Moore, the program manager for the Arson for Prosecutors Course.
“This is not a simple property crime,” Moore continued. “A true act of arson is a highly violent crime which has very real effects on its victims who deserve justice.”
In 2018, there were 557 fire investigations in the State of Minnesota, according to the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Division. Further, in the same year, there were 142 arson charges and 54 convictions, varying from first to fifth degree, according to Minnesota’s State Court Administrator’s Office. These numbers show the importance of educating prosecutors on elements of fire investigations before cases are brought to their office.
During the course, attendees learned about fire dynamics, the scientific method, fire origin and cause, expert testimony and much more. The course also included case studies, a panel discussion and a live burn demonstration where attendees observed the difference between a fire using ordinary combustibles and a fire using an accelerant (gasoline).
“This course went much more in-depth than what I previously learned about arson,” said Assistant Stearns County Attorney Kevin Voss, and a course attendee who has tried arson cases in the past. “Even if you’re an experienced prosecutor in arson cases, there was a great deal of information shared in the past three days. The tools and resources will definitely help me to more effectively prosecute future arson cases I come across.”
More than a dozen prosecutors and six fire investigators from across Minnesota attended the event.
ATF protects the public from crimes involving firearms, explosives, arson, and the diversion of alcohol and tobacco products; regulates lawful commerce in firearms and explosives; and provides worldwide support to law enforcement, public safety, and industry partners. More information about ATF and its programs is available at www.atf.gov.