Updated 1:33 p.m. | The police are questioning a man who investigators believe may be responsible for four firebomb attacks in Queens over the weekend, the city’s police commissioner said on Tuesday.
In three of the four attacks, Starbucks Frappucino bottles were used to create Molotov cocktails. One of the four firebombings, which took place in the Jamaica neighborhood on Sunday night, was aimed at an Islamic temple in which 100 people were worshiping; the other attacks involved a home that houses a small Hindu temple, a bodega and a house on 107th Avenue. No injuries were reported.
Investigators are exploring whether the suspect had any previous contact with the bodega’s owner, who was the victim of the first firebombing. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said the owner had told investigators about an episode on Dec. 27 in which he or his employees ejected a man who was trying to steal a Frappucino and a container of milk.
As bodega workers were pushing the man out of the store, Mr. Kelly said, “He said words to the effect of, ‘We’re going to get even. We’re going to get back at you.’ ”
A fifth Molotov cocktail attack took place in Elmont, just across the border in Nassau County, on Sunday night. Mr. Kelly said police detectives “believe the same individual is responsible for all of the incidents.”
During the attack at the bodega, a man threw a lighted Molotov cocktail toward the counter, the police said, adding that the bottle did not break upon landing. Investigators believe it is likely that the shoplifter was the same man who returned with the incendiary device, and that the man’s grudge against the bodega may have been the impetus for the attack, the official said.
If that is the case, investigators are trying to understand why the same man would have attacked the other locations, the official said.
The police have released a sketch of a suspect, as well as a video (see above) captured by a surveillance camera that shows the attack against the Hindu temple. In the video, a man in a hooded sweatshirt steps from a vehicle and hurls a Molotov cocktail, which ignites in a flash across the lawn of the home that housed the temple.
The police have been investigating the firebombings as possible bias attacks. Detectives zeroed in on the man in custody — who was not immediately identified or charged — because his car had been seen by a witness at the bodega and had been captured by security video at the Hindu house of worship, Mr. Kelly said.
The car has Virginia plates, though the police say they believe the man is from Queens.
“Attacks on houses of worship are particularly egregious,” Mr. Kelly said, adding, “They endanger lives, but they also assail our religious freedoms.”
Tim Stelloh contributed reporting.