National News Desk

Texas teen charged with allegedly setting Austin synagogue on fire

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Austin Fire Department

(AUSTIN, Texas) — A Texas teen has been charged with allegedly setting an Austin, Texas, synagogue ablaze on Halloween.

Prosecutors allege that Franklin Barrett Sechriest, an 18-year-old student at Texas State University, intentionally lit a fire at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on the night of Oct. 31, and upon searching his Jeep Cherokee, agents recovered ingredients for Molotov cocktails, according to the complaint and affidavit, which were filed on Friday.

“Kill them all,” reads a propaganda-style sticker with swastikas on it, which was also allegedly found in his car along with two other hateful stickers. FBI agents also found a calendar with an anti-Black racist epithet written on it in his home, the charging documents allege.

Days before he allegedly set the fire, Sechriest allegedly cased the child development center at the house of worship, according to court documents.

“Scout out target,” the suspect’s journal allegedly said in an entry from Oct. 28. An Oct. 31 excerpt allegedly includes reminders to “get matched on tinder!” and “go to Wild Wings” before a statement that reads: “I set a synagogue on fire.”

Sechriest was caught after he was allegedly seen on surveillance camera. He was walking up the handicap ramp at the synagogue, holding a green container and a roll of toilet paper, according to court documents. The charging documents say there was $25,000 worth of damage to the synagogue but nobody appeared to be present when the alleged arson occurred.

“Within seconds” of lighting the fire, surveillance footage shows Sechriest jogging away from the scene toward his car, court documents say. And a Nov. 2 journal entry appears to show him tracking media reports about the synagogue fire, according to court papers.

The attorney representing Sechriest did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Carla Hill, asssociate director for the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism told ABC News that the uptick in anti-Semetic incidents — in Austin in particular — is alarming.

“It’s not representative of the community as a whole. It’s a few bad apples,” Hill said. That’s creating this level of fear within the community, and something like an arson, of a place of worship, is particularly alarming. And it just creates a huge sense of fear within the community. And that’s why, it’s always important to speak out against it.”

A spokesperson for the Texas State University also gave a statement to ABC News.

“Our university decries this hateful act of bigotry and violence and all the anti-Semitic events perpetrated recently in Austin, San Antonio, and San Marcos,” they said. “The Texas State University community stands in solidarity with our Jewish students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members who have been impacted.”

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