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Police Question Suspect In Burning Of Jewish Religious Items In Brooklyn

Rubin Ubiles' Grandmother Says Grandson Said He Didn’t Commit The Crimes
Ruben Ubiles (credit: NYPD)

Ruben Ubiles (credit: NYPD)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Police continued to question a suspect Wednesday evening in connection with a string of recent mezuzah burnings in Brooklyn.

Earlier, police identified Rubin Ubiles, 35, as a suspect in connection with the crimes.

Police believe Ubiles was the person seen on surveillance video Tuesday, lighting a match inside a building on Clymer Street in Williamsburg where a mezuzah was later found burned.

He was being held at the 81st Precinct in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

On Facebook on Wednesday morning, Ubiles left a typo-riddled rant about his innocence, CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis reported.

“I’m going to get my name cleared. I don’t even like fires; been threw (sic) too many of those to attempt to threaten a community thats (sic) has not violated me. Give me the benefit of the doubt,” he wrote.

But police identified Ubiles using facial recognition computer software, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported. They took him into custody early in the morning at his girlfriend’s home.

Petra Velazquez said she spoke to her grandson on Tuesday. She sobbed as she told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello, “He say that he don’t do that.” She also said her grandson has a drug problem and often stays at her building — just five doors down from a synagogue.

Authorities were trying to determine if Ubiles, who has a long arrest record dating back to 1995, is the one responsible for at least a dozen mezuzah burnings. Mezuzahs are parchments inscribed with religious texts and attached to door frames of Jewish homes.

Ubiles’ criminal history includes 52 arrests on charges, including robbery, drugs, auto theft and assault. His most recent arrest was on Feb. 3 — just nine weeks ago.

Authorities were also trying to determine if it was a hate crime as people in Williamsburg believe.

Ublies’ arrest was a relief to neighbors.

“Glad, more than glad,” one man said. “You have to do something about it. They should learn their lesson.”

“When we kiss that mezuzah, we know that we are protected by God, so now is that fair to take that off?” a woman added.

Williamsburg community leader Rabbi David Niederman said he thinks the burnings were indeed hate crimes.

“Why then do you go and destroy in such a horrible way the most respected religious symbol?” Rabbi Niederman told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell.

On Monday, which was Holocaust Remembrance Day, 11 mezuzahs were found torched about a block away in the same housing development in a building on Taylor Street.

Niederman said it’s hard to believe there was an incident Tuesday after most of the attacks happened on Monday.

“A guy has real chutzpah, as they call it in Spanish,” the rabbi told Haskell.

Ubiles was last seen wearing a purple do-rag and a black jacket with a “NY” symbol on the shoulder and “New York” across the chest,” police said.

The NYPD said officers were to increase their presence in the community to deter any copycat vandalism.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.

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