A Wisconsin man was charged Tuesday in the firebombing of a pro-life organization attacked a week after the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. The suspect was apprehended at an airport before he could board a flight to Guatemala.
Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury, 29, of Madison was charged with one count of attempting to cause damage by means of fire or an explosive after authorities arrested him Tuesday morning at Boston Logan International Airport. He had purchased a one-way ticket to Guatemala City.
U.S. Justice Department Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen said the suspect “used an incendiary device in violation of federal law in connection with his efforts to terrorize and intimidate a private organization.” He faces a penalty of five to twenty years in prison if convicted.
Wisconsin Family Action suffered fire and smoke damage on Mother’s Day, May 8, 2022 after two Molotov cocktails were thrown through the window of its headquarters. Police responded to the fire at 6:06 a.m., and nobody was in the office at the time.
The building’s exterior was vandalized with the spray-painted message, “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either,” as well as a circled anarchist “A” and the number “1312.”
A LinkedIn account in the suspect’s name describes him as a research scientist at Promega Advanced Technologies in Madison with a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
According to the complaint, law enforcement used DNA taken at the scene of the attack and compared it to a partially consumed burrito that Mr. Roychowdhury threw away earlier this month in a public trash can.
“On March 17, 2023, law enforcement advised that a forensic biologist examined the DNA evidence recovered from the attack scene and compared it to the DNA collected from the food contents,” said the department press release. “The forensic biologist found the two samples matched and likely were the same individual.”
Mr. Roychowdhury made his initial appearance Tuesday in federal court in Boston. A detention hearing was scheduled by U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald L. Cabell for Thursday.
At least 83 pro-life pregnancy centers and offices have been attacked since the May 1 leak of the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned Roe v. Wade and gave the states once again the power to regulate abortion.
Republicans and pro-life groups have accused the Justice Department of a lackluster response to the vandalism and arson. The first indictments came in January against two suspects in attacks on three pro-life pregnancy centers in the Miami area.
The arrest in the Wisconsin Family Action case represents the second time the department has announced taking action on suspected perpetrators. The radical pro-choice group Jane’s Revenge has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks.
The FBI offered a $25,000 reward in January for information leading to an arrest, prompting Wisconsin Family Action President Julaine Appling to increase the group’s reward to $5,000.
“Here we are 8 months and at least 78 attacks later, and still we have heard of no solid leads on suspect(s),” she said after the reward was announced, according to NBC15 in Madison. She told The Washington Times in a Tuesday email that the group has no comment at this time.
“Violence is never an acceptable way for anyone to express their views or their disagreement,” said Robert R. Wells, assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division. “Today’s arrest demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to vigorously pursue those responsible for this dangerous attack and others across the country, and to hold them accountable for their criminal actions.”
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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