A suspect has been arrested in what the U.S. Justice Department calls an “attempted firebombing” of a synagogue in Bloomfield, New Jersey. This is the latest in a series of attacks and threats against Jewish places of worship.
Surveillance video showed a man in a dark-colored hoodie throwing a lit Molotov cocktail at the front of Temple Ner Tamid at 3:19 a.m. on Sunday. When authorities checked license plate readers, they found that Nicholas Malindretos, 26, of Clifton, New Jersey, about 15 minutes north of Bloomfield, was driving the car. On Wednesday, the Justice Department said Malindretos was arrested and charged with throwing a Molotov cocktail.
During a search of Malindretos’ car, authorities found a hoodie and gloves that matched those worn by the attacker in the synagogue’s surveillance video. According to a complaint filed by the FBI, surveillance footage also showed a man who fit the suspect’s description entering a nearby building.
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Malindretos has been charged with trying to use fire to damage and destroy a building. If he is found guilty, he could spend up to 20 years in federal prison and pay a $250,000 fine.
On Thursday, he will go to federal court for the first time. When asked if Malindretos has hired an attorney, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not answer immediately.
“Newark FBI and our law enforcement partners have been working around the clock since Sunday morning,” James E. Dennehy of the FBI said in a statement. “The speed and intensity of this investigation demonstrates our determination and dedication to protecting houses of worship and protecting their congregations.
In the failed attack, a man in a mask walked up to Temple Ner Tamid, lit a glass bottle on fire, and threw it at the synagogue’s glass doors. Before the suspect ran down a driveway, the bottle broke, but it didn’t do any damage to the building.
Rabbi Marc Katz of Temple Ner Tamid said that recent security upgrades, like a barrier that can’t be broken, paid for by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness may have saved the building.
“We were able to avert the worst because the device the person was throwing didn’t make it through the front glass doors,” Katz said during a prior interview.
On Tuesday night, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy went to the temple and spoke to the press in the building’s lobby after meeting behind closed doors with Jewish leaders like Katz and Asaf Zamir, the Israeli consul general in New York.
“Unfortunately, the amount of antisemitic acts is almost exploding in New Jersey,” Murphy said. “We wanted to be here to say we will not relent, we will have your backs, whether it’s law enforcement, bully pulpit, hardening targets, hiring security, educating kids, fight antisemitism online — whatever it might be, we will be there.”
You can find all the details regarding this case on the justice.gov website, which you should visit.