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Shabbat fire at Fort Lauderdale Chabad not hate crime, police say

A suspect is in custody after allegedly igniting a van belonging to the rabbi of Las Olas Chabad Jewish Community Center.

Police Tape. Credit: Matt Gush/Shutterstock.
Police Tape. Credit: Matt Gush/Shutterstock.

Police in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., do not suspect a hate crime but say that a suspect intentionally lit a van belonging to a Chabad rabbi on fire on Shabbat.

Officers arrested Scott Hannaford, “a transient resident of Fort Lauderdale” whom police say “appears to suffer mental illness and has been trespassed from the property before,” NBC 6 South Florida reported. It added that police are calling the fire an isolated incident that it doesn’t consider a hate crime.

The suspect faces two arson counts in connection to the fire at Las Olas Chabad Jewish Community Center, as well as a charge of criminal mischief and one of cocaine possession, NBC reported.

The rabbi said that security camera footage showed the man attempting to light the building on fire unsuccessfully hours before Shabbat-morning services, before igniting the van. He said the fire from the van spread to the building.

“The kitchen is completely damaged. There’s smoke damage and soot throughout the building,” NBC reported. “The rabbi’s van is destroyed, but inside his van was a Jewish prayer book which was still intact once the flames were put out, giving the congregation some hope.”

Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue posted that it responded to “an early morning commercial fire,” with an initial report of “a fully involved vehicle next to the building which extended into the building.”

“Crews encountered heavy smoke and two lines have been stretched,” it added. “Crews are knocking the fire down and searching two floors of the structure. The fire is under investigation.”

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