CLIFFVIEW PILOT HAS IT FIRST: Investigators have charged a 19-year-old loner eclipsed by the shadow of his military serviceman brother in connection with the Jan. 11 firebombing of a Rutherford rabbi’s home and a Jan. 3 arson at a Paramus synagogue. Bail for Anthony Marco Graziano of Lodi is $5 million.
The arrest early this morning follows an intense manhunt that, in the end, produced a lone teenager with a backpack, a bicycle and rudimentary materials to make bombs out of Orange Crush soda bottles.
CLIFFVIEW PILOT on Thursday obtained still images of a man later identified as Graziano walking out of the Wal-Mart on Route 46 in Saddle Brook with a bag of items that sources with direct knowledge of the investigation said included Suave hair spray, duct tape and Orange Crush.
“Just about everything recovered from the scene was bought” at the store where the images were taken, one of them told CLIFFVIEW PILOT on Thursday. Various sources in different areas of law enforcement confirmed that report.
Molinelli officially released the images to the public on Friday, in the hopes someone would recognize the man in the red skull cap and black track suit.
The first wave of calls didn’t pan out, he said. But on Monday, detectives “received a number of tips regarding the identity of the individual” in the surveillance video, Molinelli said.
The tipsters identified him as Graziano, who lives with his mother and grandfather on Westervelt Place, the prosecutor said.
Detectives went to his house, interviewed Graziano, as well as his friends and relatives, then obtained a search warrant and conducted a “massive” search of the home, Molinelli said.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Graziano — who turns 20 on Valentine’s Day — was also caught in the images with a military-styled camouflage sack on his back. His brother is currently on assignment with the U.S. Army.
The brother “was very well-known and well-liked,” a Lodi source told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. Anthony Graziano, on the other hand, “hung out with the punks. He never seemed to do much of anything.”
And while his brother is into motorcycles and car shows, Graziano usually pedaled his bicycle around, those who often spotted him said.
In fact, Molinelli said today that Graziano used the bike to get to and from both synagogue attacks.
Graziano is charged with nine counts of first-degree attempted murder and bias intimidation and one count of first-degree aggravated arson for the Rutherford incident.
He is also charged with first-degree aggravated arson, first-degree bias intimidation and third-degree arson for the Paramus incident. Bail was set at $5 million cash.
Some of the evidence includes bottles of Orange Crush soda, a source with direct knowledge of the investigation told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
The Orange Crush bottles are believed connected to “Left 4 Dead,” an X-Box game that two Florida honor students cited as their inspiration for throwing more than a dozen Molotov cocktails at cars and a house in Florida two years ago.
In another incident, authorities in Salt Lake City last year arrested a man who they said threw Orange Crush soda bottles filled with an accelerant into a target’s home.
The soda bottles were bought at a Wal-Mart, same as in the Rutherford firebombing.
The New Jersey manhunt began after a Molotov cocktail crashed through the bedroom window of Rabbi Rabbi Nosson Schuman — who lives above Congregation Beth El on Montross Avenue with his wife, parents and five children — around 4:30 a.m. Jan. 11.
As CLIFFVIEW PILOT first reported, Schuman extinguished the flames and called police, who found several other homemade incendiary devices on the roof — leading to the belief that whomever tossed them was specifically targeting Schuman.
“If those devices were meant for the temple or the school [downstairs], they wouldn’t have been thrown up at the second floor,” a law enforcement source told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
The manhunt quickly intensified, involving not only the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and local police agencies but also the FBI and ATF, as well as the New Jersey State Police. Gov. Christie sent a representative from the Attorney General’s Office, as well.
Bergen County’s top public safety leaders later told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that unprecedented 24-hour patrols of Bergen County’s religious and ethnic community facilities would continue for the indefinite future. Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli, Police Chief Brian Higgins and Sheriff Michael Saudino made the historic pact after meeting with Jewish leaders and others.
Every individual police department in the county was on the lookout.
The security measures were hoped to bring the added benefit of resources concentrated on finding whomever was responsible for the firebombing and possibly for a small arson fire set behind Congregation K’hal Adath Jeshurun in Paramus, he said.
“This is certainly a hate crime. This is certainly a bias crime,” Molinelli said of the Rutherford attack.
Investigators haven’t connected the graffiti taggings of swastikas and other reprehensible symbols on or near Bergen County temples in recent weeks to the more aggressive, hostile, serious attack in Rutherford. The graffiti incidents include three in Fair Lawn and one at Van Saun Park in nearby Paramus that bear similar markings.
Although people commonly know of Molotov cocktails as bottles filled with gas and ignited by a kerosene-soaked wick stuffed into the mouth, some devices instead involve a chemical or gel and gasoline mix that ignites when the container breaks.
Schuman was lauded by many for his attempts to ease people’s fears and use the attacks as a pathway toward more communication and better understanding among various groups. Although several different community meetings were held, many point to one called by the rabbi at Felician College in Rutherford.
AN OFFICER WRITES: The coward who firebombed the home of Rabbi Rosson Schuman and his family failed to produce the terror, silence or cries for vengeance that such incendiary devices are meant for. No. The hateful act offered the Rutherford rabbi an opportunity to deliver a message that is as important now as ever.
CLIFFVIEW PILOT SCOOP: A massive search of a Lodi home last night led to the arrest of a suspect in the firebombing of a Rutherford rabbi’s home, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. One of the pieces of evidence: Orange Crush soda.
CLIFFVIEW PILOT HAS IT FIRST: Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli on Friday authorized the release of what were investigatory images obtained by CLIFFVIEW PILOT of a man buying hair spray, bottles, duct tape and other materials at the Wal-Mart on Route 46 in Saddle Brook that were used in the pre-dawn firebombing of a Rutherford rabbi’s home. There’s a reward for anyone who can lead authorities to him.
YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Bergen County’s top public safety leaders each told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that unprecedented 24-hour patrols of Bergen County’s religious and ethnic community facilities will continue for the indefinite future, amid a manhunt for whoever is responsible for throwing a Molotov cocktail through the window of a Rutherford rabbi’s bedroom.
EXCLUSIVE REPORT: The FBI has entered an investigation into a pair of what are now believed to be related attacks on Jewish temples in Bergen County, the most serious occurring early this morning when one of four or five Molotov cocktails crashed through the bedroom window of a rabbi who lives upstairs from his Rutherford synagogue with his wife and five children, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.
CLIFFVIEW PILOT HAD IT FIRST: Investigators have charged a 19-year-old loner eclipsed by the shadow of his military serviceman brother in connection with the Jan. 11 firebombing of a Rutherford rabbi’s home and a Jan. 3 arson at a Paramus synagogue. Bail for Anthony Marco Graziano of Lodi is $5 million.