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N.Y. man faces hate crime, arson counts in firebomb attacks

January 4, 2012 |  9:15 am

Fire-damaged home near the Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center.
A New York man who allegedly chose New Year's Day to take revenge on his perceived enemies was charged Wednesday with a hate crime and four counts of arson stemming from a recent spate of firebombings.

The suspect was identified as Ray Lazier Lengend, who's believed to have hand-crafted Molotov cocktails using glass Starbucks Frappuccino bottles and a beer bottle. He then allegedly used the homemade weapons to get back at others for what he considered slights and insults.

Lengend reportedly cooperated with police and confessed to the attacks, including a couple of which police were unaware. The targets included two homes in Queens; a home in Nassau County; a convenience store; and a New York City Islamic center, the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation, according to the Associated Press. There were more than 80 worshipers inside the latter at the time.

No injuries were reported, but the two-hour rampage left city residents frightened and shaken on a day that was supposed to be set aside for spiritual and emotional renewal. Once a suspect was caught, anger erupted along with demands that the culprit face hate crime charges for the attack on the center.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised the city that there would be no tolerance for discrimination.

Now, law enforcement officials are trying to piece together not just the string of attacks, but also a motive. The New York Times reports that investigators believe Lengend was trying to settle scores against those he believed had wronged him. The center, for example, was deemed to have mistreated Lengend when he asked to use its bathroom. The convenience store owner allegedly tossed Lengend out after he was caught shoplifting.

The New York Times also reports that Lengend has been arrested several times in the past, including on drug possession charges, grand larceny and possession of bad checks.

In at least one of the weekend attacks, authorities say, the suspect completely missed his target: A  homemade bomb was tossed at a home that Legend believed belonged to a drug dealer who had cheated him. He allegedly had the right street for the dealer, but the wrong address, according to the Associated Press, which added that Lengend ultimately did not know the residents inside the house that he allegedly set on fire.

In all, Lengend faces one count of arson as a hate crime, four counts of arson and five counts of criminal possession of a weapon, police told the Associated Press. Additional charges are possible.


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-- Rene Lynch
Twittter / renelynch

Photo: Debris sits in front of a fire-damaged home near the Imam Al-Khoei Islamic center in New York on Monday. Credit: Kathy Willens/Associated Press