Lakeville man charged with arson, burglary
A Lakeville man is in the Dakota County jail after a May 12 altercation with police at a house he alleged burglarized and set on fire.
Eric E. Contonikolas, 31, faces one count of second-degree arson and one count of second-degree burglary after Lakeville police responded to a report of a house fire and ended up in a tussle with Contonikolas amid allegations that he stole property from the home and set the stove on fire, according to police.
Contonikolas allegedly told police he gained access to the home by unlocking the front door with a credit card.
Contonikolas claimed he was actually trying to put out the fire, which was contained to a picture on the stove, police said.
According to the criminal complaint, police arrived during a fight between Contonikolas and a woman, whom they identified as the homeowner. She told police Contonikolas started the fire; in response, Contonikolas was acting belligerently and told officers to “cuff him.”
Police attempted to restrain him with handcuffs, but during the struggle one officer fell to the ground, causing pain to the right side of his body. While on the ground, Contonikolas allegedly grabbed another officer by the leg, which brought that officer to the ground. The officer sustained a cut to his hand.
A witness reported seeing Contonikolas gain entry to the home by prying the door open. The witness also allegedly saw Contonikolas enter the kitchen and leave the home toting a backpack and carrying two white garbage bags filled with goods. Contonikolas was the only person the witness saw at the scene, according to police.
About a half-hour later, the same witness saw smoke coming through the windows. Contonikolas told police he did not call 911 or notify neighbors of the fire, but instead tried to put it out himself with a “cup.”
Regarding the items in the backpack and garbage bags, Contonikolas told police he was retrieving his personal property from the home of his former girlfriend.
The homeowner told police she had argued with Contonikolas at her mother’s house prior to the fire, the criminal complaint said. She told them she did not place anything on the stove recently, and that the knobs for the stove were actually removed as a child-safety precaution. An officer found that the left-rear stove gas initiatior was set to the “on” position at a 45-degree angle. The officer saw removed knobs on the counter.
The fire seemed to be contained to the kitchen area near the stove, the criminal complaint said. There was light to heavy smoke damage.
If convicted of all charges, Contonikolas faces up to 20 years in prison and $40,000 in fines.