Authorities arrested a 26-year-old man who they say threw a Molotov cocktail at the front door of a New Jersey synagogue hours after the Sabbath.
Nicholas Malandratos of Clifton was arrested Wednesday after police found in his car matching clothing worn in an on-camera attack on the Temple Ner Tamid Jewish congregation in Bloomfield, federal prosecutors announced.
“No one should feel that their life is in danger by exercising their faith,” U.S. Attorney Philip Selinger said in a statement. “The defendant is alleged to have gone to a place of worship in the middle of the night and maliciously attempted to damage and destroy it by using a firebomb.”
Footage captured Malinderitos — wearing a black ski mask, a dark hooded sweatshirt with a skull and crossbones insignia and white gloves — entering the synagogue around 3:20 a.m. Sunday and fleeing on foot. before was lighting a Molotov cocktail, authorities allege.
The bottle exploded but the temple was not damaged. No one was inside at the time and the remains of the bomb were not discovered until 9:30 a.m.
Police, who called the attack a “biased incident,” immediately checked neighborhood surveillance footage and saw a black Volkswagen sedan drive through a nearby intersection 15 minutes before the masked assailant threw the bottle. passed 10 minutes after the attack, the same vehicle reappeared from the opposite direction. the criminal complaint said.
Police found the car in Clifton on Tuesday and could see through the windows clothing similar to that worn by the masked attacker.
Their suspicions were confirmed the next day when they executed a search warrant and found a mask, sweatshirt and gloves inside Malandratos’ car.
Malindretos was charged with using fire to damage and destroy a building used in interstate commerce. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.
Despite New Jersey police’s belief that the attempted bombing was a biased attack, it remains unclear whether federal prosecutors will seek hate crime charges.
Rabbi Mark Katz of Temple Neir Tamid said the synagogue was able to withstand a hate attack thanks to recent security upgrades funded by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
“We were able to avoid the worst because the device he was throwing didn’t go through the front glass doors,” Katz said.
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