NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A school bus was set on fire outside a school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and new video shows who may have been behind it.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, the video shows the bus sitting parked with its front door open. More than half a dozen kids are then seen bringing cardboard boxes to the scene, and apparently placing them inside the bus as kindling.
Someone is then seen starting a fire in the middle of the bus, and later, more flames pop up next to the driver’s seat.
A short time afterward, huge flames and thick black smoke were pouring out of the school bus, which was parked around 6 p.m. Sunday on Brooklyn Avenue between East New York Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard, outside the Bnos Chomesh Academy girls school.
Zainab Bai couldn’t believe her eyes.
“The smoke was just black — jet black,” Bai said. “I was like, how can that bus catch on fire? Because the bus was there, nobody was in the bus, and how did that happen?”
Police said a group of young boys set the fire. With the fire raging, at least five boys are seen running away.
One 11-year-old boy has already been arrested on arson and criminal mischief charges, police said.
Binyomin Lifshitz is a neighborhood watch volunteer whose team helped police find the boy.
“The age of these kids, they’re young children. Where are they getting this from? What’s teaching them to do such things?” Lifshitz told CBS2’s Brian Conybeare.
“I’m just glad the kids were not on the bus at the time, and that they’re safe,” said Chaya Cohen.
Cohen said her 8-year-old son was on the bus earlier Sunday. He was dropped off in Flatbush before the bus driver parked the bus on Brooklyn Avenue.
On Monday, police were collecting evidence from what little was left of the charred shell. Investigators were looking into the possibility that the incident was a hate crime.
“I don’t see any reason why they would hate the people around here, because if we all live in the same neighborhood, we are supposed to be as family,” Bai said.
Cohen was asked what kind of punishment the boys should face.
“I just think that they should be let know that these are real people, regardless of where they’re coming from – you know, whether they’re Jewish or white, black – any race,” she said. “These are people who send their kids to learn.”
The boy who was arrested was released to the custody of his mother. As to the question of whether he can be locked up, police must determine his background, whether he has been in trouble before, and whether he has behavioral problems before they decide his fate in either Family Court or Juvenile Court.
Police are looking for 5 or 6 other boys, ages 11 to 14, in connection with the incident.
On Monday night, the NYPD also confirmed that they are looking into another incident involving kids in the same age range, that took place last week. In that incident the suspects allegedly threw a rock or brick at a school bus.