NYPD Questioning Man In Firebomb Attacks

Topics: From the Wires,

NYPD Questioning Man In Firebomb AttacksDamage from a Molotov cocktail attack can be seen below a sign hanging from the facade of the Iman al-Khoei Benevolent Foundation, an Islamic cultural center, in New York, Monday, Jan. 2, 2012, after an unknown assailant attacked the center Sunday evening. It was one of a string of attacks police were investigating Monday as possible bias crimes. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)(Credit: AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — Detectives questioned a man Tuesday in connection with the firebombing of an Islamic cultural center and three other New York City sites, attacks they said might turn out to be hate crimes.

The man was tracked through a car with Virginia license plates that was believed to be at the scene of at least two of the attacks Sunday evening on a convenience store, two homes and the cultural center, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

The man was kicked out of the convenience store on Dec. 22 for trying to steal a glass Starbucks bottle and milk, authorities believe. Four of the five crude Molotov cocktails thrown at the various locations were made from glass Starbucks bottles, Kelly said.

Witnesses reported the man made threats as he was escorted out, Kelly said.

“When they were pushing him out of the store, he said words to the effect that ‘We’re going to get even. We’re going to get back at you,’” Kelly said.

No one was injured in any of the attacks, and it remains unclear whether they were linked. The attacks wrought little or no damage at most of the locations.

The first hit was at 8 p.m., when a bottle was thrown at a counter at the corner convenience store where the man was kicked out.

Ten minutes later, a possible firebomb smashed through the glass at a nearby home, setting it on fire and badly damaging it. Three children were inside.

About half an hour later, the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation, an Islamic center, was hit with two, one at the entrance where about 80 worshippers were dining, and one near a sign for the center’s grade school.

And shortly after 10 p.m., two bottles were thrown at a house that police said was used for Hindu worship services, causing minimal fire damage.

Police also were investigating a possible firebombing Sunday night in Elmont, Nassau County, just east of the city borough of Queens. A homeowner reported hearing glass shattering and smelling gasoline and found a broken glass bottle on his porch, county police said.

Detectives located the car with Virginia plates in Queens and staked it out, noticing the man who fit a police description of the suspect trying to get into it Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, religious and city leaders met at the Islamic center to urge tolerance, though it remained unclear whether the incidents were hate crimes.

“As I said before, we don’t know what the motive was,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “But in New York City, as you know, we have no tolerance for violence, and certainly no tolerance for discrimination.”

“Whether it was senseless violence or a hate crime will be determined down the road. But in either case, we’re just not going to tolerate it in this city.”


Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.

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