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Man wanted for questioning in Rutherford firebombing

Photo Credit: Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office
Photo Credit: Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office
Photo Credit: Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office
Photo Credit: Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office
Photo Credit: Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office

CLIFFVIEW PILOT HAS IT FIRST: Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli on Friday authorized the release of what were investigatory images obtained by CLIFFVIEW PILOT of a man buying hair spray, bottles, duct tape and other materials at the Wal-Mart on Route 46 in Saddle Brook that were used in the pre-dawn firebombing of a Rutherford rabbi’s home. There’s a reward for anyone who can lead authorities to him.

PHOTOS: Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office

Molinelli said the “person of interest” is wanted for questioning in connection with the attack.

He asked that anyone who knows him or has seen him contact authorities immediately.

“Just about everything recovered from the scene was bought” at the store where the images were taken, a source with direct knowledge of the investigation told CLIFFVIEW PILOT yesterday. Various sources in different areas of law enforcement confirmed that report.

The age range given for him is 18 to 30 years old. He “appears to be fair skinned with brown to black hair and beard; he stands approximately 5’10” to 6’1” tall and has a thin to medium build,” an official release says.

The man, who apparently left the store on a bicycle, was wearing a black warmup suit with red or orange stripes, black sneakers and a red/orange skullcap, while carrying a camouflage pack on his bag that looks like a military rugsack.

“If you recognized this person, do not approach him or confront him in any way,” Molinelli warned. “Instead, contact your local police, stop any law enforcement officer or call 911 and advise them that you believe you know the whereabouts of  this person.”

You could also call a special hotline number at the prosecutor’s Major Crimes Desk: (201) 226-5532

Or email: TIPS@BCPO.NET

Or text: 5512655651 [VERIZON]

The reward currently is $7,500 for anyone who provides information leading to the arrest, conviction and sentencing of anyone involved in the attack.

The search began after a Molotov cocktail crashed through the bedroom window of Rabbi Rabbi Nosson Schuman — who lives above Congregation Beth El on Montross Avenue with his wife, parents and five children — around 4:30 a.m. Jan. 11.

As CLIFFVIEW PILOT first reported, Schuman extinguished the flames and called police, who found several other homemade incendiary devices on the roof — leading to the belief that whomever tossed them was specifically targeting Schuman.

“If those devices were meant for the temple or the school [downstairs], they wouldn’t have been thrown up at the second floor,” a law enforcement source told CLIFFVIEW PILOT
.

The manhunt quickly intensified, involving not only the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and local police agencies but also the FBI and ATF, as well as the New Jersey State Police. Gov. Christie sent a representative from the Attorney General’s Office, as well.


CLIFFVIEW PILOT obtained the information and images and prepared this story on Thu rsday. Prosecutor Molinelli was made aware that we would withhold everything as long as necessary out of concern that it could compromise the investigation. The prosecutor officially declassified the material just after noon Friday.

Then, last Friday, Bergen County’s top public safety leaders each told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that unprecedented 24-hour patrols of Bergen County’s religious and ethnic community facilities would continue for the indefinite future.

Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli, Police Chief Brian Higgins and Sheriff Michael Saudino made the historic pact

after meeting with Jewish leaders and others.

Every

individual police department in the county also has been on the lookout.

“Combined, the county police chief and the sheriff can bring a tremendous amount of manpower to this,” said Molinelli, who coordinated the proactive initiative.

The security measure could also bring the added benefit of resources concentrated on finding whomever was responsible for the firebombing and possibly for a small arson fire set behind Congregation K’hal Adath Jeshurun in Paramus, he said .

“This is certainly a hate crime. This is certainly a bias crime,” Molinelli said of the firebombing. “We’re no longer looking at this as something unique to the Jewish community. It is something that is substantially affecting the Bergen County community and northern New Jersey.”

In fact, the prosecutor said that the perpetrator(s), once caught, will be charged with attempted murder.

Rabbi Nosson Schuman


Investigators haven’t connected the graffiti taggings of swastikas and other reprehensible symbols on or near Bergen County temples in recent weeks to the more aggressive, hostile, serious attack in Rutherford. The graffiti incidents include three in Fair Lawn and one at Van Saun Park in nearby Paramus that bear similar markings.

Although people commonly know of Molotov cocktails as bottles filled with gas and ignited by a kerosene-soaked wick stuffed into the mouth, some devices instead involve a chemical or gel and gasoline mix that ignites when the container breaks.

Talks are being held among various groups, and Gov. Christie has sent representatives from the Attorney General’s Office, to reassure people that all is being done and to prompt discussions aimed at easing some of the anxiety.

Police are also urging citizens to look out for their neighbors.

“Please tell people to be careful,” a law enforcement officer told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

“Increased patrols alone are not the answer unless we increase the dialogue amongst the congregants, between the houses of worship and between the houses of worship and their neighbors.

“All the gadgets in the world installed on the building are useless if people do not follow the established security protocols established by the house of worship or if they prop open a side door without permission,” he said. “EVERYONE should be vigilant.”

EDITOR’S NOTE:
No one is drawing any direct connections yet from letters sent via the U.S. Postal Service to several area synagogues that contain magazine-cover images of Bernard Madoff and other banking leaders along with a computer-generated derogatory caption. CLIFFVIEW PILOT told Molinelli it was aware of the mailings, then withheld publication of the information because of the sensitivity of the investigation. However, the prosecutor on Friday told
CLIFFVIEW PILOT that authorities see no direct connection to the firebombing.






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