Firebombing suspect faces arraignment; questions linger over competency

Story highlights

  • Police say Ray Lazier Lengend has been arrested at least six times before
  • He was arrested Tuesday in connection with firebombings on New Year's Day
  • The attacks spanned two New York City neighborhoods
  • It is unclear whether a court will find him competent to stand trial
The 40-year-old unemployed tow-truck driver who confessed to a firebombing spree on New Year's Day is apparently no stranger to confinement.
New York City police said Wednesday that Ray Lazier Lengend had been arrested at least six times before they detained him Tuesday morning in connection with a series of attacks that spanned two neighborhoods in the city.
But whether a court will find him competent to stand trial remains unclear.
Lengend, who is of Guyanese descent, is undergoing psychiatric evaluation at Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan after he admitted hurling Molotov cocktails at five locations late Sunday evening.
He has been charged with five counts of criminal possession of a weapon (possession of an explosive), one count of arson as a hate crime and four counts of arson.
Prosecutors say he'll likely be arraigned Thursday in a proceeding that could take place at the hospital where Lengend is being treated and evaluated.
The suspect has not yet been appointed legal counsel and could not be reached for comment.
Police say the attacks are thought to stem from a list of grievances he tallied against his alleged victims over the course of a few years. The gripes range from Islamic center personnel refusing him use of their bathroom, to a grocer who caught him stealing.
Police accuse Lengend of filling Frappuccino bottles from Starbucks with an accelerant and flinging them against buildings and residences in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, as well as against the home of one of his relatives living in neighboring Elmont, on Long Island.
But one of the attacks, targeting a Hindu temple, was actually the result of a wrong address, authorities later reported.
Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne added that Lengend, who had "a gripe with someone at each location," was taken to the nation's oldest public hospital because he was demonstrating what police described as irrational behavior.
A dramatic video released by police two days earlier showed a person lobbing a flaming object toward a building, and a fiery explosion erupting an instant later.
No injures were reported in any of the incidents.
Authorities say they found Lengend by way of a stolen car with Virginia license plates spotted near at least one of the attacks.
The Buick, which police believe he stole from a rental car lot at John F. Kennedy International Airport on December 30, may have been used to flee the scene following the bombings.
Prior to Tuesday's charges, Browne noted, the most serious charge lodged against the Queens resident occurred in 2009 over the alleged possession of a loaded firearm in Long Island's Nassau County.
Earlier this year, Lengend had been arrested on grand larceny charges, and he has also faced a series of drug-related counts.