HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Authorities arrested a New Jersey teen Tuesday following their investigation into the firebombing of a Rutherford synagogue earlier this month. His father, however, said he doesn’t think his son did it or if he did he was “coerced.”
Nineteen-year-old Anthony Graziano of Lodi was charged with nine counts of first-degree attempted murder, one count of first-degree bias intimidation and one count of first-degree aggravated arson for the Jan. 11 attack in Rutherford.
Graziano also faces arson and bias charges related to a similar incident in Paramus, an attack on Temple K’Hal Adath Jeshrun on Jan. 3.
“I’ve been crying all day. I don’t know what to say, what to do,” said Graziano’s father, whose name is also Anthony.
Investigators said they found Google searches of both temples. Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli described the Hasbrouck Heights High School grad as an unemployed loner, who was obsessed with Xbox and had a brewing hatred for Jews.
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg Hears From The Bergen County Prosecutor
“We have no doubt that the arson and the attempted murder in Rutherford were directly the result of Mr. Graziano’s hatred for people of Jewish faith,” Molinelli told reporters, including 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg.
“He does not hate Jewish people,” Graziano’s father told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey. “I don’t care what the prosecutor says. I know my son.”
However, a classmate of Graziano told Hennessey: “For the past two months he’s been talking about how much he hates Jews because they were going to take over the country. This kid is crazy. He’s insane.”
The arrest comes just days after the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office released video of a “person of interest” sought in the investigation into the firebombing. Investigators say surveillance video shows him leaving a Walmart on Route 46 in Saddle Brook after buying materials to make Molotov cocktails.
It was that video that authorities said had multiple tipsters calling in and that eventually led to Graziano’s arrest.
Molinelli said a receipt was found showing a purchase for duct tape, three cans of Suave aerosol spray, Crush soda bottles and low-grade motor oil. Molinelli said members of his department and police canvassed stores on the day of the attack looking into their databases before coming across the video.
Molinelli said the big break came when law enforcement officials linked all of the firebomb ingredients to the Saddle Brook Walmart, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.
WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell with more on the arrest.
“Our ability to track down a store that sold not just the Crush bottles, but duct tape, the same type of aerosol hairspray used and motor oil,” Molinelli said.
“It’s disturbing that a hate monger like Graziano was living in Bergen County right in our midst. The arrest shows this won’t be tolerated,” Etzion Neuer, of the Anti-Defamation League, told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan.
“He’s my blood and I don’t know what happened. He just, I have no idea. I’m just, I’m like flabbergasted,” said Graziano’s father.
Several Molotov cocktails were hurled at Rabbi Nossom Schuman and his family inside Congregation Beth El. One landed on the rabbi’s bed.
“We don’t have to worry about being bombed and we still have to work on understanding each other and getting along better but I think this fear of attack is off our shoulders,” Rabbi Schuman told 1010 WINS following news of the arrest.
The Rutherford attack is one of four in Bergen County in the past few months.
Police say Graziano is the man who was seen wearing knit cap and riding a bike in the images released last week. Sources told Sloan last week the camouflage backpack he’s carrying is not military issued but a bag given out by recruiters. It’s what he put the Molotov-making items in before riding off.
“I don’t think he was the member of the ‘A’ team considering the minimal damage that was done,” Rabbi Schuman said.
The rabbi also said through the goodwill of the public they’ve raised enough money to put up surveillance cameras at his temple.
Graziano is being held on $5 million bail.
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