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Man Confesses to Elmont and Queens Firebombings

Five different locations, two of which were houses of worship hit on New Year’s Day

New York City and Nassau County Police investigated a firebombing attempt Sunday night, Jan. 1 in Elmont that was revealed to be related to four firebombings in nearby sections of Queens the same evening, officials said.

Ray Lengend of Queens confessed Tuesday, Jan. 3 to going on a firebomb spree. Lengend, an unemployed truck driver, was charged with five counts of criminal possession of a weapon and five counts of arson, one considered a hate crime, police said.

Investigators were also trying to link him to at least three other attacks reported after the suspect’s arrest. Those incidents took place between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1 for which Lengend said he is responsible.

Police stated that Lengend was caught trying to steal Starbucks Frappucino bottles from a deli on Hillside Avenue on Dec. 27, the bottle described by police that was allegedly used in the fire attacks.

Furthermore, police revealed that Lengend implicated himself in the five firebomb attacks, indicating a personal grievance with each of the locations. Police did not state what those grievances were at press time.

Lengend, who has several prior arrests for crack possession and larceny, filled a Starbucks bottle with an accelerant before lighting and tossing it at the deli about 8 p.m. during the first attack on New Year’s Day, according to police.

A Nassau County Police spokesman said the incident on Glafil Street took place at around 9:40 p.m. when the Elmont homeowner heard a loud crash and discovered a broken bottle on the front porch containing an accelerant. The substance did not ignite and the incident in Elmont is being classified as first-degree arson and not a hate crime, police revealed.

Police said the homeowner was taking a break from watching football when the loud bang startled him. He saw a vehicle speed away.

County police at the time identified the suspect as a black male, 5’ 8” tall and weighing about 200 pounds and was last seen wearing a black jacket and baseball cap. NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said police had Lengend in custody early Tuesday, Jan. 2.

NCPD officials said the NYPD was looking at the four city incidents as being possible bias attacks because two of the structures targeted are used as places of worship. Nassau Police Detective Vincent Garcia said there was no apparent religious significance to the Elmont address.

Authorities confirmed that the homeowner said they did not know why the home was targeted.

Garcia called the device a “Molotov cocktail” and said its similarity to others used in the Queens incidents prompted police to consider a possible link to the city attacks. The city attacks took place in areas between five and six miles from the Elmont address, according to Garcia.

“There are a lot of similarities,” Garcia said. “The homeowner said he smelled gasoline on the porch.”

The incidents took place over a period of about three hours, between about 8 and 10:45 p.m. on Jan. 1. On Monday, Jan. 2, NYPD officials released a video of one of the city attacks and said they were looking for a suspect identified as a man between 25 and 30 years old, seen fleeing the scene in a light-colored four-door sedan.

Police said in Elmont, the incendiary device hit the house and broke the window frame and the glass on the window. The bottle was thick and it appeared to be a Starbucks Frappucino bottle, according to Garcia.

Furthermore, police officials stated that most of, if not all bottles, used in the fire attacks were Starbucks bottles. Police said homeowners were making temporary repairs to the window Jan. 2 and the family was planning to buy surveillance cameras for their home.

An attack at 8:10 p.m. on a Hillside Avenue residence caused some significant damage, police said. Also targeted at 8 p.m. was a deli on Hillside Avenue.

City police said one incident at 8:45 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 1 involved the firebombing of the front door of the Al-Khoei Foundation mosque off the Van Wyck Expressway. Police said about 80 people were inside, mosque at the time of the incident.

Another incident two hours later involved a residence on 170th Street near 89th Avenue, sometimes used as a place of Hindu meditation.

Police said the device ignited on the front lawn and caused no damage to the house. Authorities were able to get a video image of the attacker from the residents’ home system. The video depicted the suspect, winding up and throwing what appears to be a bottle, which crashed and ignited on the ground in front of the residence.