The NYPD has caught the suspect in the New Years Day firebombings in Queens. The suspect, Ray Lazier Lengend, will be arraigned today (though he is also being evaluated for fitness to stand trial). Lengend will be charged with 18 counts, among them one charge of hate crime (for the attack on the mosque), as well as arson and weapons possession charges.
He will not be charged with terrorism.
Now, several of his attacks were targeted at specific individuals: his brother-in-law, Bejai Rai, who evicted him for not paying rent, and the bodega, for busting him for trying to steal a Frappuccino last week. The cops think the Hindu target was actually a case of a mistaken address.
But according to his confession, his primary target was the mosque (against which he also had a grudge, because they once refused to let him use their restroom) and his primary motive was to inflict as much damage on Muslims and Arabs as possible.
The unhinged Queens pyromaniac who unleashed a scary New Year’s Day firebombing spree had planned to take out “as many Muslims and Arabs as possible” by lobbing Molotov cocktails at worshipers inside a mosque, prosecutors said.
Ray Lazier Lengend, 40, allegedly told cops he had planned to inflict “as much damage as possible” by hurling all five of his firebombs from the balcony of Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center onto the crowd below.
Now, given past history, we can be fairly sure that if the NYPD had entrapped Lengend themselves making such threats against, say, a synagogue, they’d have called him, and charged him, as a terrorist. In May, after entrapping Ahmed Ferhani and Mohamed Mamdouh (Ferhani, like Lengend, is mentally unstable) by selling them guns, the NYPD charged them as terrorists. Like Lengend, Ferhani and Mamdouh used ethnic slurs against their target.
Ferhani and Mamdouh were arrested May 11 on charges that they wanted to strike a synagogue to avenge what they saw as mistreatment of Muslims around the world. An undercover officer who investigated them reported that Ferhani wanted to become a martyr. The officer said secret recordings caught the men calling Jews “rats” and other names.
Back in May, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne suggested the decision to charge Ferhani and Mamdouh as terrorists was obvious.
Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne rejected the Federal critique and said “When somebody acquires weapons and plans to bomb the largest synagogue in Manhattan he can find, what do you call it, mischief?”
Eight months ago, two guys in Queens seek weapons and plan to bomb the largest synagogue in the city, they’re called terrorists. Today, a guy in Queens makes bombs and actually does attack the most prominent Shiite mosque in the city, that’s called a hate crime.
Mind you, I’m not sure either of these should be called terrorism. But I do think the NYPD should maintain some consistency about whether bombing a house of worship is terrorism or a hate crime.
Now, I actually don’t think the NYPD has chosen to call plots they concoct through entrapment terrorism, while calling this a hate crime out of any explicit prejudice. Rather, I think they’re doing it for crime stats.
By charging Lengend–someone with a criminal history, so they’ve known about him for years–with a bias crime rather than terrorism, they can sustain their boastful claims about how successful they’ve been at “preventing” “terrorism.” If they actually did charge Lengend as a terrorist, they’d have to admit that, in spite of his criminal history, they hadn’t discovered his plans to commit terrorism. They’d have to admit they’re misallocating the $330 million annually they’re spending to profile Muslims. They’d have to admit that seeking out terrorists among certain religious groups doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find the “terrorists” (as they NYPD has defined them) out there.
They’d rather engage in a blatant double standard, it seems, then admit their domestic spying operation failed.