Man arrested in Otter Tail County bridge fire was angry at driver who killed his dog, social media posts show
DENT, Minn. — A North Dakota man has been arrested in connection to a bridge fire early Sunday morning, Sept. 6, along County Highway 41 near Star Lake in Otter Tail County, Minn.
Ryan C. Johnson, 43, of Mapleton, N.D., was arrested and is being held in the Otter Tail County Jail, according to a news release from the sheriff's office. Prior to the fire, Johnson had posted in a Star Lake Facebook group offering a reward of $1,000 for anyone who could provide information regarding his dog's death.
Johnson posted in the group on Friday, Sept. 4, that the dog was struck sometime between 11:14 p.m. and 12:18 a.m. and that the incident was captured on surveillance camera.
In a follow-up post the next day, Johnson again requested assistance in uncovering more information related to his dog's death and asked that anyone with information at least leave him a note.
"I just need to know if it was on purpose or not," Johnson wrote, adding that he was searching for his dog's "murderer."
Otter Tail County sheriff's deputies and Dent Fire and Rescue crews responded to the fire near County Highway 41 and Boathouse Drive at 12:08 a.m. Sept. 6, according to a news release. According to investigators, it appeared gasoline had been poured over the mostly wooden bridge, and several propane tanks were found nearby. The bridge crossed over a narrow strip of Star Lake.
A Minnesota state fire marshal conducted an investigation, which resulted in Johnson's arrest later in the day Sunday. A sheriff's office news release stated Johnson owned a house near the bridge.
The sheriff's office is conducting an investigation to determine a motive for the fire, which the office considered to be arson.
With the bridge out of use, motorists will need to use an alternate route to navigate the area, which local residents — including Johnson — lamented on a separate post in the Facebook group.
Star Lake is about 26 miles south of Detroit Lakes.