Massachusetts man charged with attempt to firebomb a Jewish-sponsored assisted living facility


(JTA) — A Massachusetts man was arrested and charged with attempted arson at a Jewish-sponsored assisted living facility.

John Rathbun, 36, was charged on Wednesday in a criminal complaint in federal court in Springfield, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.

The facility, Ruth’s House, located in Longmeadow, a suburb of Springfield in Western Massachusetts, is situated within one square mile of several other Jewish facilities, including three synagogues, a Jewish private school and a Jewish community center.  The facility is owned by JGS Lifecare, which has had 21 residents die of the coronavirus.

Rathbun’s homemade bomb, discovered on April 2, was made of a five-gallon plastic gas canister filled with flammable liquid, with burnt paper later identified as a Christian religious pamphlet placed in the nozzle of the canister, according to the complaint. Part of the pamphlet was charred after being lit on fire in an attempt to ignite the gas.

Bloodstains found on the paper matched Rathbun’s DNA, according to the complaint. Rathbun’s DNA profile is known to law enforcement because he is a previously convicted felon, according to a report on Masslive. The report said he will be released on bail. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

The criminal complaint noted that in March, a white supremacist organization that operated on two social media platforms was identified by law enforcement with posts that promoted mass killings in the United States and elsewhere directed against religious, racial and ethnic minorities and discussed the use of various explosive and incendiary devices. It also identified synagogues and mosques as targets.

“In times of national crisis, hatred based on religion often blossoms into violence,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement.

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