Ryan Curtis Johnson had his first appearance before an Otter Tail County district judge Wednesday morning following a fire he is suspected of setting Sunday near Star Lake.
The 42-year-old Dent resident appeared before Judge Barbara Hanson with the aid of remote technology on three felony counts. Johnson is charged with possession of ammunition/any firearm, second-degree arson and possession/making/transporting an explosive device.
According to court records, the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a possible arson fire on the Star Lake bridge on County Highway 41 at 12:10 a.m. Sunday.
A county deputy and the Dent Fire Department answered the call and found extensive damage to a bridge. They also located 20- and 30-pound cylinders of propane under the bridge and one cylinder floating in the water which had exploded.
When an Otter Tail County detective arrived on the scene he was approached by several people that lived in the area. One of them indicated he had found a matchbook lying on the roadway just north of the bridge. The detective secured the matchbook as evidence.
Law enforcement was informed that Johnson, who lived near the bridge, was in the process of going through a divorce and had been acting erratically. Other witnesses questioned by law enforcement said they had earlier found three gasoline cans on the bridge. These were also taken into evidence. Johnson was linked to the fire by a witness who confirmed the defendant had made comments about blowing up the bridge near his house. The witness also said that Johnson had been driving erratically and was upset about his dog being killed.
The maximum penalty for ammunition/firearm possession is a sentence of not more than 15 years and a fine not to exceed $30,000. The arson charge and the explosive charge both carried carries a penalty of 10 years in prison, a $20,000 fine, or both.
There were no reports of injuries in connection with the fire.
An appearance before Judge Kevin Miller is set for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22. Johnson is being held in the Otter Tail County Jail.