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Police: Man admits to NYC firebomb attacks

Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

A New York City police officer stands outside a residence that was hit by a firebomb in Queens.

Updated 10:38 p.m. ET

NEW YORK -- A suspect has been arrested in the firebomb attacks over the weekend, including one at a prominent Islamic cultural center, police said.

Ray Lazier Lengend, 40, of Queens, was charged Tuesday night with five counts of criminal possession of a weapon, one count of arson as a hate crime and four counts of arson, police said.

See video, more coverage at NBCNewYork.com

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Lengend made statements earlier Tuesday implicating himself in the attacks and had personal grievances with each targeted location.


 Crude Molotov cocktails were tossed into a convenience store, two homes in Queens, one in nearby Nassau County, and an Islamic center.

One of his grievances included wanting to use the bathroom at the Islamic center school, but being blocked from doing so, sources told NBC New York.

Authorities are still investigating whether the incidents are bias crimes.

Lengend was tracked through a car with Virginia license plates that was believed to be at the scene of at least two of the attacks Sunday evening, according to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

Authorities believe Lengend was kicked out of the convenience store on Dec. 22 for trying to steal a glass Starbucks bottle and milk. Four of the five crude Molotov cocktails thrown at the various locations were made from glass Starbucks bottles, Kelly said.

Witnesses reported the man made threats as he was escorted out, Kelly said.

"When they were pushing him out of the store, he said words to the effect that 'We're going to get even. We're going to get back at you,'" Kelly said.

No one was injured in any of the attacks. The attacks wrought little or no damage at most of the locations.

The first hit was at 8 p.m., when a bottle was thrown at a counter at the corner convenience store where the man was kicked out.

Ten minutes later, a possible firebomb smashed through the glass at a nearby home, setting it on fire and badly damaging it. Three children were inside.

About half an hour later, the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation, an Islamic center, was hit with two, one at the entrance where about 80 worshippers were dining, and one near a sign for the center's grade school.

And shortly after 10 p.m., two bottles were thrown at a house that police said was used for Hindu worship services, causing minimal fire damage.

Later Sunday night in Elmont, Nassau County, just east of Queens, there was another firebombing. A homeowner reported hearing glass shattering and smelling gasoline and found a broken glass bottle on his porch, county police said.

Detectives located the car with Virginia plates in Queens and staked it out, noticing the man who fit a police description of the suspect trying to get into it Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, religious and city leaders met at the Islamic center to urge tolerance, though it remained unclear whether the incidents were hate crimes.

"As I said before, we don't know what the motive was," Mayor Bloomberg said. "But in New York City, as you know, we have no tolerance for violence, and certainly no tolerance for discrimination."

"Whether it was senseless violence or a hate crime will be determined down the road. But in either case, we're just not going to tolerate it in this city."

This article includes reporting by Shimon Prokupecz and Andrew Siff of NBCNewYork.com and by The Associated Press.

Earlier story:

Police are questioning a person of interest in the firebomb attacks over the weekend, including one at a prominent Islamic cultural center, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Tuesday.

The man was tracked through a car with Virginia license plates that was believed to be at the scene of at least two of the attacks Sunday evening on a convenience store, two homes and the cultural center, Kelly said.

The man was kicked out of the convenience store on Dec. 22 for trying to steal a glass Starbucks bottle and milk, authorities believe. Four of the five crude Molotov cocktails thrown at the various locations were made from glass Starbucks bottles, Kelly said.

Witnesses reported the man made threats as he was escorted out, Kelly said.

"When they were pushing him out of the store, he said words to the effect that 'We're going to get even. We're going to get back at you,'" Kelly said.

No one was injured in any of the attacks, and it remains unclear whether they were linked. The attacks wrought little or no damage at most of the locations.

The first hit was at 8 p.m., when a bottle was thrown at a counter at the corner convenience store where the man was kicked out.

Ten minutes later, a possible firebomb smashed through the glass at a nearby home, setting it on fire and badly damaging it. Three children were inside.

About half an hour later, the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation, an Islamic center, was hit with two, one at the entrance where about 80 worshippers were dining, and one near a sign for the center's grade school.

And shortly after 10 p.m., two bottles were thrown at a house that police said was used for Hindu worship services, causing minimal fire damage.

Police also were investigating a possible firebombing Sunday night in Elmont, Nassau County, just east of the city borough of Queens. A homeowner reported hearing glass shattering and smelling gasoline and found a broken glass bottle on his porch, county police said.

Detectives located the car with Virginia plates in Queens and staked it out, noticing the man who fit a police description of the suspect trying to get into it Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, religious and city leaders met at the Islamic center to urge tolerance, though it remained unclear whether the incidents were hate crimes.

"As I said before, we don't know what the motive was," Mayor Bloomberg said. "But in New York City, as you know, we have no tolerance for violence, and certainly no tolerance for discrimination."

"Whether it was senseless violence or a hate crime will be determined down the road. But in either case, we're just not going to tolerate it in this city."

This article includes reporting by Shimon Prokupecz and Andrew Siff of NBCNewYork.com and by The Associated Press.