Ray Lazier Lengend, 40, of Queens Village confessed Tuesday evening to the bombings. He was arraigned Thursday morning at his bedside in Bellevue Hospital on an 18-count complaint charging him with arson, criminal possession of a weapon and stolen property, petit larceny, unauthorized use of a vehicle, and a hate crime.
According to Brown's office, in statements allegedly made to police, Lengend admitted that his original plan was to inflict as much possible damage to as many Muslims and Arabs as possible by throwing all five flaming bottles into a crowd from the mosque's balcony, and that he does not like either ethnic group.
“Hate crimes – whether be motivated by religion, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender – will not be tolerated,” Brown said in a statement, “and when they do regrettably occur, they will be condemned in the strongest possible terms and those responsible will be brought to justice to answer for their actions.”
According to the criminal complaint, earlier in the day on January 1st, Lengend drove a silver Buick Regal with Virginia license plates that was stolen from a rental car facility at John F. Kennedy Airport to a gas station at the Van Wyck Expressway and Hillside Avenue and bought five glass coffee bottles.
He then allegedly drove to another gas station and poured gasoline into the coffee bottles.
According to the allegations, at just before 8 p.m., Lengend drove to a bodega at 179-40 Hillside Avenue, entered, threw a flaming glass bottle and got back in his car.
An attendant at the deli linked Lengend to an attempted robbery of a bottle of Starbuck's Frappacino and a small plastic bottle of milk the week before, according to Brown's office. The attendant put the fire out with water.
Next, At about 8:10, Lengend allegedly threw a second firebomb at a house at 146-62 107th Avenue, from which the front of the house caught fire and was destroyed.
The charges further allege that a half-hour later, Lengend threw a flaming bottle at the entrance of an Islamic center at 89-89 Van Wyck Expressway was bombed.
Roughly an hour after that, video surveillance at a private residence at 88-20 170th Street that is used for Hindu worship showed a man exit a vehicle and throw a flaming object at the residence.
“Flames from such crude incendiary devices can spread quickly and have the potential to cause serious injury or death,” Brown said, “to those in and around the buildings or to firefighters charged with fighting the blazes. Fortunately, that did not occur in this case.”
During the investigation, broken, burnt glass bottles were found at all four locations, according to Brown's office. Police released a sketch and video of a suspect late Monday night.
The Red Cross said in a statement that three families comprised of 10 adults and six children were displaced from the attacks and received emergency lodging.
Contrary to Lengend's alleged confession, residents near one of the homes at 146-62 107th Avenue told this newspaper Monday morning that the attacks were due to a neighborhood or domestic dispute, rather than due to hatred of a religion.
One neighbor said she called 911 when she realized the house across the street was on fire. She said a resident in the house came outside screaming, but that she didn’t hear an explosion.
“They came out the door with three babies, I mean she had all three of them in her hands, all in diapers,” the neighbor said. “She was in the house on the first floor.”
However, when asked about the additional bombing of the Islamic center, she said that was intentional to draw attention away from what was really the issue, which she wouldn’t specify.
“This is a terrible block,” the neighbor said. “It’s not a hate crime.”
A patron at the Zuny Beauty Salon across the street from the attacked house on 107th Avenue said he lives up the street and that the crimes were related to the block’s troubled history, but wouldn’t specify what the problem was.
“I’m very uncomfortable because I don’t want that to happen to my house,” he said. When asked if he thought the attacks were a hate crime he said, “no I don’t think so,” even though a religious institution was also attacked.
The Imam Al-Khoei Foundation is one of the most prominent Islamic centers in New York City, according to its Web site, offering funerals, educational classes and other services to its members.
A statement posted on its Web site Monday confirmed that the center was the victim of a Molotov cocktail attack to its main entrance.
“We thank Allah (SWT) that no major damage or injury was caused by the blast,” the statement said. “The Foundation reiterates its resolve to continue to serve the community and to strive to bring love where there is hatred, light where there is darkness and enlightenment where there is ignorance.”