A Massachusetts man was released to his home after he was charged with attempted arson of a Jewish assisted-living facility in East Longmeadow that had been threatened on two social media platforms used by white supremacists, the US Attorney's Office in Massachusetts announced on Wednesday.
A "homemade incendiary device" was placed near the entrance to Ruth's House, the assisted-living facility, two weeks ago. The device was placed near a widely used pedestrian walkway and within a square mile of three Jewish temples, a Jewish private school and a Jewish Community Center.
The device allegedly was made out of a five-gallon gas canister, filled with gasoline, with a Christian religious pamphlet placed in the nozzle of the canister. Blood found on the handle of the canister and the pamphlet has been linked to the suspect's DNA profile.
A white supremacist organization identified by law enforcement in March that was operating on two social media platforms had made threats against "that jew nursing home in longmeadow massachusetts" along with another target, according to the US Attorney's Office. The identity of the other target was not published in the statement.
A user on the social media platform also created two events on the organization's calendar: "hating n*&%@#s day" on April 2 and "jew killing day" on April 3. The entry for "jew killing day" listed the event location as "Jew Nursery Home" without specifying an address. It is believed that the user who posted about "that jew nursing home in longmeadow massachusetts" and the user who created the April 3 calendar entry are the same person. The canister was found near Ruth's House on April 2.
It is unclear if the suspect was involved in the organization.
The suspect has not yet entered a plea and was released to his home by federal magistrate judge Katherine A. Robertson despite objections by prosecutors. Robertson's decision was made due to coronavirus concerns in detention facilities, according to local news source the Lowell Sun. The suspect lives just a "few minutes' drive" from Ruth's House, according to prosecutors.
“In times of national crisis, hatred based on religion often blossoms into violence,” said US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling in the statement by his office. "We will find, investigate and aggressively prosecute anyone engaged in this kind of mayhem."
Anti-Defamation League New England Regional Director Robert Trestan responded to the incident after the suspect was released.
"The attempted arson attack at Ruth’s House, a Jewish assisted living facility in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, is deplorable and a threat to the surrounding Jewish community," Trestan said. "This incident is the latest demonstration of how extremist activity online can inspire real world action and violence. Sadly, even during a pandemic, extremists are operationalizing their antisemitism with the intent to kill."
Trestan called the suspect's release "irresponsible" as the suspect "represents a clear and present danger to the community." The ADL regional director warned that the move "undermines the safety and security of the entire community."
State Sen. Eric Lesser stated in a Facebook post that he was both "saddened and very angry [about] the horrific act of Antisemitism and attempted arson targeting Ruth's House in Longmeadow."
"The Jewish holiday of Passover, which ends this week, marks the universal story of Exodus, [about] a people who persevere amid unspeakable hardship and win freedom over persecution and slavery," wrote Lesser. "Today, we must call upon that same spirit of redemption to confront evil in our midst and resolve that we, too, will stand for justice."
The senator added that the ADL and the Commonwealth's own Hate Crimes Task Force have documented an increase in antisemitism and other hate crimes in the area.
"We cannot rest until people of all faiths and backgrounds feel safe," wrote Lesser, stressing that the news of the attempted attack was "even more troubling" as the healthcare facility deals with the coronavirus outbreak and marks the Passover holiday.
The suspect faces up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 and/or a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.