The man picked up by police in connection with a string of five fire bombings, four in Queens and one on Long Island, confessed to authorities and has been charged with a hate crime.
Ray Lazier Lengend, 40, was tracked through a stolen car eyewitnesses saw at the scene of at least two of the attacks. Authorities believe Lengend stole the car, a late-model Buick, from a rental lot at John F. Kennedy International Airport. He was arrested on Tuesday, January 3 and charged with one count of arson as a hate crime, four counts of arson and five counts of criminal possession of a weapon.
According to police, hours before he was charged, Lengend implicated himself in each of the five attacks, stating that he had personal grievances with each of his targets.
Authorities believe Lengend was kicked out of a convenience store on December 27 for trying to steal a glass Starbucks Frappuccino bottle and milk. The owner of the convenience store said that as Lengend was leaving the store, he threatened retaliation.
That deli was later firebombed by a homemade Molotov cocktail, along with four other targets. Four of the five firebombs thrown at the various locations were made from glass Starbucks bottles, police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. The fifth likely was made from a beer bottle.
Before the suspect’s confession, Kelly, along with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other Queens elected officials, gathered at one of the targets, the Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center in Jamaica, to condemn the attacks.
According to police, the incidents occurred between 8 and 10:15 p.m. on Sunday, January 1. No injuries were reported and damage to the mosque was minimal. On Monday, January 2, police released a sketch of the suspect and video showing the man hurling a flaming bottle at a home on 170th Street that doubles as a Hindu place of worship.
The other two targets were private homes, with one house sustaining heavy fire damage in the living room, though no injuries were reported.
After meeting with representatives of the mosque and elected officials, Bloomberg said that the city will not tolerate violence, whether it was a senseless act or a more targeted hate crime.
“In either case, one attack is too many,” he said. “We all know that we are in this together and discrimination against one is discrimination against many.”
Borough President Helen Marshall called it a “sad day” and said that she was extremely upset by the thought of attacks like these happening in a borough as diverse as Queens.
“This man must be punished by the fullest extent of the law,” she said. “To throw bombs without knowing who is inside – it’s just wrong, and it’s not Queens.”