Sketch Released In 4 Queens Fire Bomb Attacks, Police Investigate Possible 5th Incident On L.I.
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Authorities continued their search Monday night for an alleged arsonist, who attacked four locations in Queens and possibly a fifth location on Long Island.
Monday afternoon, police released a sketch and surveillance video of the suspect they believe it responsible for the attacks, which are all now being investigated as hate crimes.
Several locations, including a mosque and home housing a Hindu temple, were targets of the fire bomb attacks in Jamaica on Sunday night. The attacks occurred within a two hour time period inside of a two mile radius.
Authorities in Nassau County were also investigating if what happened across the Queens line on Sunday night in Elmont is related. Bejai Rai’s window was smashed by a man he says threw something at his home.
“Suddenly we hear this bang, like glass,” Rai told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey. “We are still baffled.”
There was no damage in the incident, but many questions remain as to the perpetrator’s motivation.
Authorities also announced a $10,000 reward that will be paid by the NYPD for information leading to an arrest and conviction. In addition, Crime Stoppers is also offering a $2,000 reward.
Authorities described the suspect as a black male, approximately 25-30 years old and 5’8” and 200 pounds. The suspect was last seen wearing a black jacket and baseball cap. Police said the individual was seen fleeing in a light-colored, four-door sedan.
The first attack happened around 8 p.m. at a bodega owned by a Muslim man on Hillside Avenue. At the bodega, a manager said they threw a man out just before the attack happened because they had caught him shoplifting a week before.
“He just tried to make problems…to steal some stuff, you know?” Ahmed Abdulla said. “He said, ‘I come back to fight you,’ he said. That’s what he said and he come back, and instead and throw the bottle through the kitchen.”
Police believe the attacker put a liquid into small Starbucks Cappucino bottles, which, ironically, are sold in the same bodega that was targeted.
Only 10 minutes later, a home on 107th Avenue caught fire after someone threw a homemade fire bomb into the house. It took firefighters 40 minutes to bring the blaze under control.
Pamela Harris said what she saw across the street as the flames roared, would put anyone in shock.
“One of the girls that lived in there, she had three babies and they were all in diapers,” she told CBS 2’s Pablo Guzman. “She came through that door with all three of those babies in her arms.”
WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reports
A third attack happened about a half an hour later at the Imam Al Khoie Foundation just off the Van Wyck Expressway. Officials said someone drove by the building and threw at least two Molotov cocktails at the front door.
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports
The foundation’s Imam Maan Al-Sahlani said about 100 people were inside when they heard the noise and saw a flashing light.
“Someone informed me there’s a smoke bomb or two or three bombs outside,” Al-Sahlani said. “Our community, our people tried to put down the fire and called 911.”
One witness said he saw a van speeding away from the scene. Syed Meesam Razvi said he is not jumping to conclusions.
“Hopefully this was just an isolated incidence,” he said. “That’s what we’re hoping for.”
Around 10:15 p.m., two Molotov cocktails were also thrown at a home on 170th Avenue, which according to investigators, was used for Hindu worship services.
“They have been here for more than 30 years and they are very good people,” Anjan Bhattacharjee said.
No injuries were reported in any of the attacks.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement saying the alleged attacks “go against everything we stand for as New Yorkers and Americans.”
“Attacks such as this have no place in our open and inclusive society and we must do all we can to ensure New York remains a safe and tolerant place for all,” he added.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said the attacks “represent a brand of intolerance and bigotry that cannot be allowed to stand in our city.”
“These appalling acts of vandalism are an affront to all New Yorkers,” he added.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the attacks “stand in stark contrast to the New York City of today that we’ve built together.”
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