December 7, 2021

Franklin Barrett Sechriest, 18, Arrested for Torching Austin’s Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue

6 min read

A Texas teen is dealing with felony arson fees for allegedly setting fireplace to an Austin synagogue on Halloween evening.

Franklin Barrett Sechriest, 18, was arrested Wednesday by legal investigators with the Austin Hearth Division. Sechriest was recognized because of surveillance footage from the parking zone of Congregation Beth Israel earlier than, throughout, and after the blaze, exhibiting the license plate variety of his Jeep—which led cops to Sechriest’s house in San Marcos, Texas, the place lives along with his mom, Nicole, according to a warrant for Sechriest’s arrest obtained by The Daily Beast.

The fireplace brought on roughly $25,000 value of injury to the temple, it states.

Sechriest was booked into the Travis County Jail on Wednesday at 6:20 p.m., in line with the Travis County Sheriff’s Workplace. He remained jailed on $100,000 bond, which he had not but posted as of Thursday morning, a sheriff’s workplace official confirmed.

Sechriest was unable to be reached for remark, and doesn’t have a lawyer listed in court docket data. Nicole Sechriest hung up instantly when contacted by The Every day Beast.

The affidavit accusing Sechriest of setting the hearth says arson investigators “noticed burn patterns in line with the usage of a liquid accelerant and dominated out all ignition sources besides an open flame launched by human means.”

Video of Sechriest’s Jeep coming into the synagogue’s parking zone shortly earlier than 9 p.m. on Halloween evening was captured on a number of surveillance cameras, in line with the affidavit.

“As the motive force exits the car, the SUV begins to roll backwards, at which period the motive force jumps again in to cease the car,” the affidavit states.

The driving force, later recognized as Sechriest, then exited the car once more and walked “towards the realm the place the hearth was began.” He will be seen carrying inexperienced pants, a black shirt, a face overlaying, and a watch on his proper wrist, carrying a inexperienced container investigators say was full of gasoline, as he walked towards the doorway to the synagogue. He then “rapidly turns and walks away.”

As the hearth burns, the “topic then returns inside digicam view, working again to the car,” states the affidavit. “At roughly 9:03 pm, the suspect car drives away… Smoke and light-weight from the hearth can nonetheless be seen on the video because the Jeep drives away.”

In a Nov. 9 letter to the congregation shared with The Every day Beast by Beth Israel board member Oliver Bernstein, Senior Rabbi Steve Folberg and Beth Israel President Lori Adelman advised members, “What we initially thought (and hoped) amounted to minimal, exterior injury to the Sanctuary doorways, has turned out to be rather more in depth.”

“Safety digicam footage from contained in the Walter Cohen Sanctuary Lobby exhibits liquid fireplace accelerant seeping below the Sanctuary doorways and onto the stone tile flooring of the lobby simply earlier than the arsonist ignited the liquid,” the bulletin explains. “It’s horrifying to see a number of tendrils of flame engulfing our sanctuary doorways on the within in addition to the skin. Thank God {that a} passerby noticed the flames and referred to as 911 in order that the Hearth Division arrived rapidly. Additionally, the truth that the flooring within the lobby is product of stone tile moderately than wooden or carpet might very nicely have saved the hearth from spreading all the best way into the sanctuary itself.”

Nonetheless, the letter continued, “the smoke injury could be very in depth. Each floor must be scrubbed down at a minimal and far will must be torn out and changed. The fireplace remediation firm is working specialised ‘air scrubbers’ designed to interrupt down the chemical compounds which can be inflicting the noxious odor that at the moment pervades our worship house.”

The temple’s worship house shall be unusable for “for much longer than we had hoped,” and the repairs will price way over anticipated, in line with the letter, which says providers shall be held within the constructing’s auditorium “for fairly a while.” On Friday evening, the synagogue will stream Shabbat providers on-line, and Folsberg hopes to reopen for in-person providers on Nov. 19.

In an emailed assertion, Folberg expressed “some sense of reduction” over Sechriest’s arrest, however mentioned, “Throughout Central Texas and past, we’re seeing a spike in assaults in opposition to Jews. We denounce all acts of bigotry and violence, particularly these motivated by blind hatred of any of the proud and distinctive communities that enrich our civic life. We are going to stay robust and vigilant within the ongoing work of justice, security and peace for ourselves and all our neighbors.”

Some hours after the hearth was set on the synagogue, members of the Goyim Protection League, a noxious group of neo-Nazis the ADL describes as “a small community of virulently antisemitic provocateurs,” livestreamed a swastika burning within the Austin space.

“Jesus Christ, you’re the mild of the world,” says one. “I pronounce this a lighting of the white race… That is the everlasting swastika… Reward Yahweh!… Fuck the kikes!”

“Fuck the kikes, reward Yahweh,” one other attendee calls out.

Goyim Protection League chief Jon E. Minadeo of Petaluma, California, mentioned he was there. Minadeo, 38, is an “actor and writer” who appeared in Curveball, a 2011 romantic comedy in which his character decides to finally propose to his girlfriend however discovers she has been having an affair along with his finest good friend.

Minadeo, who launched his own line of Adolf Hitler t-shirts earlier this year, advised The Every day Beast the swastika burning was “completely not” related to the synagogue fireplace.

In a tense cellphone dialog, he claimed Sechriest was not affiliated with the Goyim Protection League, and claimed the group doesn’t condone violence. He described the loosely-connected syndicate as “a web-based factor for trolling individuals,” including, “Individuals come collectively after we do activism.”

In another video posted on Halloween, titled, “Pleased Halloween KIKES! HEIL HITLER,” Goyim Protection League members sing, “All people desires a Jew-free world,” to the tune of the 1985 Tears for Fears hit, “All people Needs to Rule The World.”

“We’ve by no means, ever carried out something violent in the direction of Jews,” Minadeo insisted, saying the group was merely “burning the flag of what we consider is the synagogue of Devil.” He then turned upset about being pilloried beforehand within the media, which he decried as being “run by Jews,” and complained that he couldn’t get a good shake with any reporter who’s Jewish or sympathetic in the direction of the Jewish faith.

Minadeo beforehand posted anti-Semitic movies on-line below the pseudonym “Good-looking Fact 5,” till he was banned from YouTube for “a number of or extreme violations of YouTube’s coverage prohibiting hate speech.” In August 2019, after posting flyers in Santa Rosa, California claiming that Jews were behind the 9/11 attacks, his true id was revealed when a notice was published in a local community newspaper saying {that a} Jon Minadeo II had registered a enterprise with the Sonoma County Clerk referred to as Good-looking Fact Enterprises.

The Beth Israel arson occurred every week after the Goyim Defense League hung a banner from an Austin bridge within the neighborhood of a Jewish neighborhood heart and several other synagogues, studying “Vax the Jews.” The banner was quickly eliminated by police, however an similar message reappeared in the identical spot two days later. Jewish leaders in Austin cautioned that the group may launch additional efforts within the days to come back, in line with the Jewish Telegraphic Company.

Austin has seen a latest spike in anti-Semitism. One other ugly incident that occurred in Austin days before the synagogue fire noticed anti-Semitic graffiti, together with racist and homophobic slurs, scrawled at Anderson Excessive College, which has a student body made up of significant numbers of Jews.

For the reason that arson assault, Congregation Beth Israel has acquired donations from supporters worldwide, which the shul’s website says “will assist us to restore and rebuild our synagogue, strengthen our safety, and help Congregation Beth Israel as we heal from this hateful, cowardly act.”

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