Police have arrested a 29-year-old Bronx man on hate crime charges in connection to a wave of damage left to Jewish houses of worship in the borough.
The NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force held a briefing Saturday to announce the arrest of Jordan Burnette, accused of leaving behind a trail of broken glass and other damage from throwing rocks at a number of synagogues in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.
Deputy Inspector Jessica Corey, commanding officer of the task force, detailed how uniformed officers spotted the suspect riding a bike against the flow of traffic around 3 a.m. Saturday. Their stop of the man was key to connecting him to last week's crimes, she said.
After Burnette became uncooperative and failed to produce "proper" identification, Corey said, the officers took him to the 50th Precinct. Police searched the area where he was first stopped by officers and found a van with a broken windshield. They also grabbed surveillance video from a nearby home that showed Burnette smash the window and exit the parking lot of a nearby synagogue on West 250th Street.
Police checked out the parking lot, where they found religious prayer books thrown across the ground and an open shed, Corey said. A caretaker at the synagogue confirmed to police the bike recovered from Burnette was one taken from the shed.
Burnette faces burglary as a hate crime and "numerous charges related to the many acts of vandalism as hate crimes that have taken place in this community," Corey said.
At least four synagogues in the neighborhood were the target of antisemitic violence last weekend. The attacks were quickly condemned by city and state leaders, who directed immediate investigations by task forces pursuing hate crimes.
Over the course of several nights, four synagogues in the borough were damaged last weekend by rocks hurled at doors and windows. Police said Chabad of Riverdale and Riverdale Jewish Center were hit around 12:30 a.m. on March 23.
The same synagogues were targeted again on March 24, as well as the Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel and Young Israel of Riverdale. In each instance, windows and doors were shattered or significantly damaged by thrown rocks. The man is also seen kicking at least one of the windows.
Early Monday morning, the same suspect struck again at the Riverdale Jewish Center — despite police being present. Police said that officers were stationed out front where the other attacks had occurred, but the suspect this time went through the back and they missed him.
In the reports shared by the NYPD, the department had said a single assailant was responsible for each of the incidents. The man was seen on video wearing a camouflage jacket.
A man who belongs to the Riverdale Jewish Center said the suspect seemed familiar.
"I saw him here a couple weeks ago and he was roaming the neighborhood," said David Hochhauser. "I'm hopeful that they get this guy very soon. I think he's mentally ill, I mean he's gotta be ... it's just unsettling to have someone smash windows for no reason."
Despite the attacks, congregants still showed up for evening services on Sunday. NYPD officers were seen guarding the outside of worship houses throughout the weekend.
"The synagogue has been the central point of all Jewish society so whoever they are...whenever someone wants to attack Jews the first thing they go after is the synagogue," said Harvey Wolintz.
"So maybe some people won't come to the synagogues. They'll be afraid for a while. I can't get that in the way, once you do that, they've won already," Wolintz added.