What to Know
- A former Bridgeport man accused of hurling a lit Molotov cocktail at police in Brooklyn on Saturday morning faces federal arson charges, officials said
- Lionel Virgile appeared in Brooklyn federal court via teleconference Monday and was ordered detained by the judge
- Federal prosecutors said the 44-year-old told officials he threw bleach at officers in the first traffic stop and purchased "the materials to create the incendiary device with the intent to injure police officers"
A former Bridgeport man accused of throwing a lit Molotov cocktail at police amid a series of violent traffic stops in Brooklyn on Saturday told authorities he intended to "hurt the police" that day, federal officials detailed in court documents released Monday.
Federal prosecutors called Lionel Virgile, 44, a flight risk and a community danger in their request Monday for a permanent detention order. He appeared in Brooklyn federal court via teleconference and was ordered detained by the judge.
Arguing for Virgile's detention, prosecutors revealed five additional Molotov cocktails were recovered from inside his vehicle at the time of his arrest. They added that Virgile told officials he threw bleach at officers in the first traffic stop and purchased "the materials to create the incendiary device with the intent to injure police officers."
The federal attempted arson charge issued against Virgile carries a prison sentence up to 20 years if convicted.
"As alleged, the defendant deliberately sought to severely injure an NYPD police officer by throwing bleach at his eyes and to ignite an NYPD vehicle with officers inside by hurling a lit Molotov cocktail at it," Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Mark Lesko said in a statement.
The former Connecticut man, who prosecutors said had been living out of his car in Brooklyn, was allegedly driving through Brooklyn early Saturday morning when he blew through a red light, catching the attention of police officers.
Two officers pulled Virgile over just before 8 a.m. Saturday after he ran the light, police said. Video posted by the NYPD hours later on Twitter appears to show body camera footage of the stop and the moment the accused driver tossed bleach onto one of the officers.
In the video, two officers approach the Lincoln Town Car on each side and begin talking to the driver through his door window when he opens the door and throws a liquid, hitting the officer near the driver's side door.
The video ends, and that's when police said Virgile drove off. A second team of officers in the area spotted the Lincoln a short distance from the traffic stop and pulled it over.
Police said Virgile stepped out of his vehicle at the second traffic stop and threw a lit Molotov cocktail at their vehicle. It allegedly bounced off the windshield and shattered in the street.
The man hopped back into to his vehicle and fled from police for a second time, they said. Moments later he collided with an unoccupied parked SUV on Snyder Avenue.
Officers caught up to the man and removed him from the vehicle, taking him into custody. An FBI agent said officers found five more Molotov cocktails in Virgile’s car.
One officer suffered chemical burns to his face as a result of the bleach and was taken to a nearby hospital, officials said. As of Monday he had been released. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Winik said Virgile committed “a brutal and entirely unprovoked attack” that could have blinded the officer hit with bleach.
According to the sources, the driver waited to run the red light until the police car pulled up. Investigators believe this may have been a deliberate act to lure police.
Virgile's public defender Michelle Gelernt did not seek bail during Monday's hearing. He was remanded to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn pending another hearing scheduled for May 3.