A Massachusetts man has been charged after he allegedly tried to blow up a Jewish assisted living residential facility with a canister that he lit on fire and left in front of the property, authorities said.
John Michael Rathbun, 36, has been charged in federal court with two counts of attempted arson. Rathbun allegedly left the five gallon canister filled with gasoline just 50 yards from the entrance of Ruth’s House, a home for seniors of all faiths, which police discovered on April 2, according to United States District Attorney’s office in Massachusetts.
Police said inside the nozzle was a burnt “Christian pamphlet,” that had been set on fire.
“In times of national crisis, hatred based on religion often blossoms into violence,” said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling in a press release.
Ruth’s House, which is in close proximity to three Jewish temples, a Jewish private school and a Jewish community center, had been the subject of two separate white supremacist threats online prior to the attempted arson, police said.
In March, a white supremacist organization posted on two social media platforms promoting mass killings “against religious, racial and ethnic minorities; discussed plans to engage in these crimes themselves; discussed using various explosive and incendiary devices, including improvised devices commonly known as ‘Molotov cocktails’ and identified targets, such as mosques and synagogues,” according to the press release.
One of the locations referenced was Ruth’s House, which the organization allegedly described as “that jew nursing home in longmeadow massachusetts,” according to police. A calendar event created by the organization set for April 3 read “jew killing day,” authorities said. Police are not sure whether Rathbun is a part of these groups, but they said they are investigating.
On April 9, authorities were able to identify Rathbun through blood that was left on the gas canister and fingerprints on the pamphlet inside of the nozzle, they said.
“This case highlights the very real threat posed by racially motivated violent extremists and make no mistake, the FBI will use every investigative tool available, along with the expertise and skills of our partners on our Joint Terrorism Task Forces, to identify, assess and disrupt threats like this one to keep our communities safe,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, a special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division.
Rathbun was released Wednesday to home confinement by Judge Katherine Robertson.