A teen has been arrested by the Austin Police Department after being accused of setting fire to a synagogue on Oct. 31. Franklin Barrett Sechriest, 18, is accused of intentionally setting fire to a place of worship, according to an arrest affidavit dated Nov. 10. On Halloween evening, officials responded to a structure fire at the Beth Israel Synagogue that caused $25,000 worth of damages, according to the affidavit. The Austin Fire Department determined the incident fit the parameters of arson. The Austin Fire Department posted a photo showing the fire damage to the synagogue.
Surveillance videos from the area showed an SUV entering the parking lot, and a ”tall thin white man” exiting the car. The man was then seen carrying a full container. Minutes later, the building caught fire, the affidavit said. The affidavit said videos from days before the incident captured the license plate of the SUV. Investigators were able to trace the vehicle to a woman living in San Marcos at the same address as Franklin Sechriest, who matched the description of the man seen in video footage.
Senior Rabbi Steve Folberg of Congregation Beth Israel told the outlet the synagogue was relieved to learn of the arrest. “We are grateful to the authorities including the Austin Fire Department, Austin Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their diligent and persistent work investigating this hateful, antisemitic act,” he said in a statement to KXAN.
“It gives us some sense of relief to learn of this arrest, but we are staying vigilant. Across Central Texas and beyond, we are seeing a spike in attacks against Jews. We denounce all acts of bigotry and violence, especially those motivated by blind hatred of any of the proud and distinctive communities that enrich our civic life.”