Suspect in custody for throwing Molotov cocktail at New Jersey synagogue
Police have arrested a man who they say was caught on surveillance video launching a Molotov cocktail at a New Jersey synagogue over the weekend.
Prosecutors on Wednesday said 26-year-old Nicholas Malindretos, of Clifton, New Jersey, is facing a charge of attempted use of fire to damage and destroy a building used in interstate commerce for allegedly throwing a firebomb at the Temple Ner Tamid Jewish Congregation in Bloomfield.
According to police, shortly after 3 a.m. on Jan. 29, surveillance video captured a suspect tossing a Molotov cocktail at the synagogue. The Molotov cocktail’s bottle broke, but the synagogue was undamaged, police said. The suspect fled and no one was injured.
According to court documents, the suspect, later identified as Malindretos, was seen donning a ski mask, gloves and a hooded sweatshirt with an emblem of what appeared to be a skull and crossbones. He lit and tossed the bottle at the front door of the temple before fleeing on foot.
Authorities were able to obtain a search warrant after a nearby license plate reading device recorded a vehicle passing the scene shortly after the incident and tracked down the vehicle in Clifton, where they found items in the car that were also visible in the surveillance footage, prosecutors said.
“Video cameras in the area where the vehicle was parked captured the vehicle parking and a male individual with the same physical characteristics as Malindretos exiting the vehicle and entering a nearby building,” prosecutors said in a news release.
Malindretos is scheduled to appear in federal court on Thursday. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
“No one should find that their lives are at risk by exercising their faith,” U.S. Attorney Sellinger said. “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.”
“Protecting communities of faith and houses of worship is core to this office’s mission,” Sellinger added.
On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy visited the temple and condemned the incident and others like it in the state, CBS New York reported.
“Absolutely despicable … Unfortunately, the amount of antisemitic actions in New Jersey is almost exploding,” Murphy said.