Indictments brought against suspect in Queens mosque, temple attacks

New York police say a series of firebombings in Queens on New Year's Day were related.

Story highlights

  • Ray Lazier Lengend faces state and federal charges in firebombings
  • Lengend confessed to a New Year's Day firebombing spree
  • Among the buildings attacked were a mosque and a Hindu temple
  • Authorities believe targets were chosen because of suspect's personal grievances
Authorities on Monday unsealed parallel indictments against Ray Lazier Lengend, who is accused of firebombing a mosque and a Hindu temple in Queens in January.
The seven-count federal indictment and 36-count state indictment charge Lengend with hate crimes and explosives offenses.
"Hate crimes offend the very principles upon which this country was founded, and those who engage in such conduct will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This defendant allegedly sought to fan the flames of ethnic and religious tension. Those flames will always be extinguished by the rule of law," said U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch.
The 40-year-old unemployed tow-truck driver, who confessed to a firebombing spree on New Year's Day, is no stranger to confinement.
New York City police said Wednesday that Lengend had been arrested at least six times before they detained him in connection with a series of attacks that spanned two neighborhoods in the city.
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 Bellevue 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 the New Year'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.
Lengend is currently jailed on Rikers Island, according to spokeswoman for New York City Department of Corrections. He will be arraigned March 26 at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse.
Lengend is charged with arson as a hate crime, grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, criminal possession of a weapon, endangering the welfare of a child and other charges, according to a press release from the Queens County District Attorney's Office.
If convicted, Lengend faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Lengend's lawyer, Kenneth Dean, could not be reached for comment.