Book burned in library, investigated by MPD arson unit

A section of the burned book, on its shelf in the Wheelock Whitney Library, seen here August 30, 2010 (Photo/Caleb Williams)

According to a campus-wide email sent to students, faculty and staff, the MCTC Public Safety Department responded to a report of burned book in the Wheelock Whitney Library on August 26.

Officers responded to the library around 3:15 p.m., where library staff presented security personnel with the book — identified as the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution Vol. XI — which according to the email “had minimal damage due to a very small portion of several pages having burn marks on them.”

According to campus Public Safety director Curt Schmidt, a witness reported the smell of smoke to the library front desk, prompting the library staff to call public safety. A Minneapolis Fire Department truck also responded.

The book was lying open several rows over from its shelf in the reference section on the first floor of Whitney Hall. The library staff has returned the book to the shelf, cutting out all of the charred areas.

While Schmidt declined to comment on whether there are suspects in the case he did say that there are security cameras in the library. The aisle where the book was found does not contain security camera that look directly down the row.

A motivation for the burning is not known.

According to Schmidt,  both the MCTC Public Safety Department and the Minneapolis Police Department Arson Squad will investigate the burned book. Schmidt says the involvement of the Minneapolis police is routine in cases such as these, going on to say that this is the first arson case in the ten years since he has been with the college.

Safety director Curt Schmidt urged anybody with knowledge of the incident to contact either MCTC Public Safety at 612-659-6910 or Sergeant Sean McKenna with the Minneapolis Police Department Arson Squad at 612-673-3389.

“If anybody saw anything, that’s why we sent out the mass email,” Schmidt said. “We would like the community’s help.”

The burning — labeled arson in the fourth degree by the Minnesota Statute § 609.5631 — is a gross misdemeanor and anyone found guilty “may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year or to payment of a fine of not more than $3,000, or both.”

Florida church plans Quran burning

As the story broke of the MCTC book burning, another book burning story was developing in Florida as Terry Jones, pastor at Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla. says his group plans to burn copies of the Quran — the holy book of the Islamic faith — on Sept. 11 as way of sending a message to “radical Islam” concerning their alleged behavior in European countries, which Jones said he does not want in America.

“We have declared September the 11th ‘International Burn a Quran Day’ because we want to send a very clear message,” Jones said on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”

“It is indeed a radical message but a very clear, radical message to Muslims, to Sharia law, that that is not welcome in America.”

In the interview, Jones said that he would proceed with his plans — which will be broadcast worldwide — no matter who speaks against it.

Editor’s note: We will continue to update this breaking story as news develops.