Arson, murder charges in apartment house fire


A Minneapolis man was charged with three crimes, including murder, in connection with a fire in an apartment house, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday.

Marcus Dewayne Shanks, 30, was charged with one count of second-degree murder in the death of Royce James, 59, attempted second-degree murder and first-degree arson. Shanks is expected to make his first court appearance Wednesday.

According to the criminal complaint, police were called to a fire at the three-story apartment building at 1500 Park Ave. about 10 p.m. Friday. The first officer found James lying face down in the grass beneath the window of his third-floor apartment. He was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center where he died about four hours later from blunt force and thermal injuries.

Nearby was a woman who also had jumped from the same window. She had burns to her hands, feet and face and doctors at the medical center also discovered fractures to her femur and pelvis. She has not regained consciousness and is in critical condition, the complaint states.

Not long before the fire, a witness living on the first floor saw Shanks, known to the witness as Memphis, splashing lighter fluid on the east stairwell. The witness told Shanks to stop, but he said no, that everyone in the building was going to die. He then lit the fluid and ran upstairs and later downstairs and out the building, according to the complaint. Minneapolis fire investigators later determined that fires were lit on all three floors.

At about 8:20 a.m. Saturday, the witness flagged down a Minneapolis police officer to report that Shanks was banging on a door at an apartment next door to the one that had the fire. The officer arrested him and smelled a strong odor of smoke from Shanks, the complaint states.

Criminal Complaint (PDF)