New Jersey

Suspect in Molotov Attack on NJ Temple Mapped Out Other Potential Targets: Prosecutors

Authorities said the suspect who allegedly threw the Molotov cocktail at the Temple Ner Tamid had also identified what he labeled "ten mile targets" — which included politicians, police and the military

NBC Universal, Inc.

More details have come out about the man who was arrested after allegedly being seen on video in a ski mask throwing a Molotov cocktail at the front door of a New Jersey synagogue, as police said he had more targets in mind.

Nicholas Malindretos, identified as the suspect in the Sunday morning attack at the Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, allegedly had drawn a map labeling other potential targets he could go after. In a search warrant executed at the Clifton house where Malindretos was arrested Wednesday, authorities said he identified what he labeled "ten mile targets" — which included politicians, police and the military.

Prosecutors said more accelerants were also found in the home.

"He’s been detained as he is an ongoing and present danger to the community," said the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Philip Sellinger.

After three days on edge, a New Jersey community is breathing a sigh of relief following the arrest of the suspect caught on camera throwing a Molotov cocktail at a Bloomfield synagogue. Here's who the 26-year-old is and how investigators tracked him down. NBC New York's Ida Siegal reports.

State, local and federal authorities joined forces to launch an all-out search for Malindretos, who was tracked in part through video of his Volkswagen going to and from the synagogue, as well as license plate reader matching, according to officials familiar with the investigation.

When his vehicle was found, clothing similar to those seen in the video — including the mask, gloves and black sweatshirt with a skull and cross bones — were allegedly seen in the back seat.

"You’ve heard the word tireless used a lot here, but it was relentless work as well. They did not leave any stone unturned to look for a clue," said Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens II.

The 26-year-old was charged with federal arson-related charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office said, and faced a judge on Thursday. Sources said the U.S. Attorney's Office is considering additional charges, including bias crimes.

Malindretos, who was represented by a public defender, is unemployed and was living in a friend's basement when he was arrested. The assistant U.S. attorney noted his parents had filed an order of protection against their son, who had what he called a tendency for violence.

Prosecutors said in court there are indications that Malindretos may be dealing with undiagnosed mental health issues, but authorities wouldn’t say how that might impact the case going forward. After the court appearance, prosecutors would not comment on whether they believe he acted alone.

Investigators are still trying to hammer out a motive, but a rabbi at the synagogue said that it boils down to one thing: hate.

"There are many people with mental illness in this country that would never think to do what he did. Which means there has to be a hate element to why he chose us," said Rabbi Marc Katz. "And so my heart goes out to him, and at the same time, I’m not sure that one can discount the fact that he chose us as a target."

If convicted, Malindretos faces up to 20 years in prison. Attorney information for him was not known. No one answered the door at the family's home.

The suspect's car was identified on surveillance video and tracked back to Clifton, where he lives, according to law enforcement officials. NBC New York's Ida Siegal reports.

Temple Ner Tamid released a statement following the arrest, saying police "will be investigating the suspect’s ties — if any — to individuals or groups with hateful, violent, traitorous, or insurrectionist goals."

"If he is listening, I would like him to learn from this and to realize that we as a community are not those things that he fears and hates," said Katz.

No one was hurt in the attempted firebombing at the temple during the early overnight hours. Surveillance footage showed someone in a ski mask light a Molotov cocktail and throw it at the front door of the synagogue, which is part of the vast five-county network of Jewish Federation Greater MetroWest NJ.

The flaming bottle did not damage the temple after it broke on the shatter-resistant doors — one of many security upgrades made there over the years. The fire went out on impact.

Police had been parked outside the temple in the days following the incident, as an added source of security — and to calm frayed nerves. Many were told about the attack Sunday morning, just minutes before parents were set to bring their children in for Hebrew school.

"My congregation was on edge. As long as the perpetrator was out there it meant that he could potentially come back. And so there is a sense that at least this particular threat has been neutralized," Katz said.

In 2022, there an all-time high in antisemitic incidents and assaults reported in both New Jersey and New York -- and a man was just arrested in early November for allegedly threatening temples across the state.

This latest case underscores the ongoing nature of the problem, according to David Saginaw, who heads the Jewish Federation Greater MetroWest NJ.

"This incident comes amidst a climate of intimidation and intolerance, and a rising tide of anti-Jewish hate crimes and hate speech against Jews," he said. "Our Jewish Federation will continue to work with all partners in the community to stand up to hate, build our resilience, and promote safety and security."

News 4's Gilma Avalos reports.

Contact Us