Authorities arrested a 26-year-old man they say was seen on footage lighting and throwing a Molotov cocktail at a New Jersey synagogue.
A suspect wearing a black ski mask was seen on camera approaching the Temple Ner Tamid Jewish Congregation in Bloomfield, New Jersey, around 3:20 am Jan. 29, according to court documents. The suspect threw a bottle at the front glass doors of the temple before fleeing the scene on foot. Bloomfield Police said the Molotov cocktail exploded but did not break through the front doors of the building. (RELATED: Pro-Life Group Attacked By Molotov Cocktail, Headquarters Set Ablaze)
Police scoured nearby surveillance footage and identified a black Volkswagon sedan passing through a nearby intersection 15 minutes before the attack and again 10 minutes after the attack, the court documents stated. Police located the vehicle in Clifton on Jan. 31. Unidentified liquid bottles, a hooded sweatshirt and white cloth material that appeared to match the gloves the suspect was seen wearing on camera were visible through the window of the car.
After obtaining a search warrant, police confirmed the clothing matched what the suspect was wearing in the on-camera attack and connected the vehicle to Nicholas Malindretos. Malindretos was arrested Wednesday.
Malindretos was charged with the attempted use of fire to damage and destroy a building. If convicted, Malindretos faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, prosecutors said.
Police labeled the attempted attack a “bias incident,” the New York Post reported.
“No one should find that their lives are at risk by exercising their faith,” U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger said in a statement. “The defendant is alleged to have gone to a synagogue in the middle of the night and maliciously attempted to damage and destroy it using a firebomb.”
“Our religious traditions continue. No act of hate can stop the power of religious freedom,” Rabbi Marc Katz of the Temple Ner Tamid said in a statement. “There is hate everywhere, and hate wins when we let it penetrate. When the weight of this grows too heavy, I remind my congregation that every day, despite what is happening, in Jewish communities around the world, babies are named, children are educated, people are married.”
The rabbi added that he was grateful the building’s security precautions prevented more damage from occurring. “Everything worked as it should. Our cameras recorded the incident and our shatter-resistant doors held,” Katz stated.