- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 3, 2012

NEW YORK — A man hurled crude firebombs at an Islamic cultural center in part because he wasn’t allowed to use its bathrooms and targeted four other New York-area sites on New Year’s Day because of other personal grievances, a law enforcement official said Tuesday.

The 40-year-old man, of Guyanese descent, was taken into custody Tuesday after he was tracked through a car with Virginia license plates that was thought to be at the scene of at least two of the attacks Sunday evening on a convenience store, three homes and the cultural center, authorities said.

The man, whose name was undisclosed Tuesday night, made statements implicating himself in the attacks and had personal problems with each location, said Paul Browne, spokesman for the New York Police Department. Two of the targets were homes in Queens, and one was a relative’s home in neighboring Nassau County.

He is facing arson-related charges, and it was unclear Tuesday afternoon whether the attacks were considered hate crimes, which could bring extra penalties. He has prior arrests on charges related to drugs, passing bad checks and weapons possession.

The law enforcement official, speaking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the case was still being investigated, said the man made broad anti-Muslim statements and could be charged with a hate crime in the Islamic center attack.

The suspect is thought to be the same person kicked out of the convenience store Dec. 27 for trying to steal a glass Starbucks bottle and milk, authorities said. Four of the five crude firebombs thrown at the various locations were made from glass Starbucks bottles, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Tuesday.

Witnesses reported that he made threats as he was escorted out of the store, the commissioner said.

“When they were pushing him out of the store, he said words to the effect that, ‘We’re going to get even. We’re going to get back at you,’ ” the commissioner said.

No one was injured in any of the attacks, which wrought little or no damage at most of the sites. The first hit was at 8 p.m., when a bottle was thrown at a counter at the corner store where the man was kicked out.

Ten minutes later, a suspected firebomb smashed through the glass at a nearby home, setting it on fire and badly damaging it. Three children were inside.

About half an hour later, the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation, an Islamic center, was hit with two, one at the entrance where about 80 worshippers were dining, and one near a sign for the center’s grade school.

At about 9:15 p.m., a homeowner in Elmont, Nassau County, reported a suspected firebomb. He heard glass shattering, smelled gasoline and found a broken glass bottle on his porch. Shortly after 10 p.m., two bottles were thrown at a house that police said was used for Hindu worship services, causing minimal fire damage.

Religious and city leaders met at the Islamic center to urge tolerance, even though it was not clear that the incidents were hate crimes.

“As I said before, we don’t know what the motive was,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said. “But in New York City, as you know, we have no tolerance for violence, and certainly no tolerance for discrimination.

“Whether it was senseless violence or a hate crime will be determined down the road. But in either case, we’re just not going to tolerate it in this city.”

• AP writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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