Suspect Arrested in Antisemitic Arson in Texas

NEW YORK -

A suspect has been arrested in connection to an intentionally set fire at a Reform congregation in Austin, Texas, Fox 7 reported.

Franklin Barrett Sechriest, 18, has been charged with first-degree felony arson that caused $25,000 in damage to the building. The front, wooden doors, and glass was damaged, and at least one window appeared to have been intentionally broken.

Austin Fire Department arson investigators traced security footage of a Jeep approaching the congregation on October 31 to Sechriest, who had used his own car to carry out the attack.

The person driving the Jeep was seen carrying a five gallon olive green jerry can as he walked towards the congregation, and driving away while smoke and fire can be seen in the background.

Surveillance video from three days prior to the arson showed the same Jeep driving through the congregation’s parking lot, with its license plate clearly visible. Law enforcement traced the vehicle’s registrations to Sechriest’s home.

The joint investigation between the FBI and the Austin Fire Department is ongoing.

The arson attack took place after several antisemitic incidents that occurred in the Austin area, though any link between them has not been discovered as of now.

Earlier in October, antisemitic and other racial slurs were found spray painted in a local high school parking lot, and on October 24, a local neo-Nazi group hung antisemitic banners from an overpass near the local Jewish Community Center.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who is Jewish, condemned the incident in a tweet. “I am heartbroken to see antisemitic hatred in Austin, a welcoming and respectful place. Hatred of any kind has no place in our city,” he wrote.