18-year-old man caught on tape setting fire to Jewish synagogue, cops say

fire
Source: Austin Fire Department, Unsplash

Nov. 11 2021, Published 8:12 p.m. ET

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A teenager is accused of lighting a Jewish synagogue on fire in Austin, Texas, on Halloween.

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Franklin Barrett Sechriest, 18, is suspected of using an accelerant near the sanctuary doors of Congregation Beth Israel to ignite the flames, causing an estimated $25,000 in damage, according to KXAN.

An arrest affidavit for Sechriest obtained by KXAN said surveillance video showed a dark-colored Jeep enter the north parking lot around 9 p.m. the night of the fire.

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The driver, described as a “tall thin white male with dark hair” got out of the car carrying what seemed to be a heavy green jug, KXAN reported.

According to the affidavit obtained by KXAN, the man walks out of the camera view towards the area where the fire started.

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Minutes later., the video shows the fire being ignited from four different camera angles, KXAN reported. The suspect then returned within the view of the cameras, running back to the Jeep and driving away, according to KXAN.

Past surveillance footage from Oct. 28 shows what appears to be the same Jeep visiting the synagogue parking lot and leaving, KXAN reported.

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Cops got the Jeep’s license plate number from the footage and tracked down the SUV’s owner in San Marcos, according to KXAN.

The Jeep was not registered to Sechriest, but he lived with the person it was registered to, and investigators found that Sechriest fit the description of the suspect seen in the surveillance videos, KXAN reported.

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Senior Rabbi Steve Folberg of Congregation Beth Israel released a statement about the arrest to KXAN:

“We are grateful to the authorities including the Austin Fire Department, Austin Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their diligent and persistent work investigating this hateful, antisemitic act. It gives us some sense of relief to learn of this arrest, but we are staying vigilant. Across Central Texas and beyond, we are seeing a spike in attacks against Jews. We denounce all acts of bigotry and violence, especially those motivated by blind hatred of any of the proud and distinctive communities that enrich our civic life. We will remain strong and vigilant in the ongoing work of justice, safety and peace for ourselves and all our neighbors.”

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You can donate to Congregation Beth Israel online to help with repairs.

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