BROOKLYN — A man the NYPD has taken into custody for vandalizing a Brooklyn church is also facing federal charges for arson at a local synagogue and yeshiva, United States attorneys said Saturday.
The church incident took place on May 13 in the early hours at 1:36 a.m. A man entered the grounds of Saint Athanasius Church on Bay Parkway tore down a large crucifix with a statue of Jesus affixed to it. He then removed an American flag that was hanging on the front of a church building and proceeded to burn it, causing damage to a fence in the process.
Ali Alaheri, 29, was arrested Saturday and charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime in connection.
Alaheri is also facing federal charges related to setting fire to a yeshiva and synagogue in Brooklyn Thursday, according to the local U.S. Attorney’s office.
In the pre-dawn hours Wednesday, Alaheri was seen on surveillance video piling garbage bags against the side of a building on 36th Street that housed the school and the synagogue. He is recorded igniting those garbage bags. Firefighters responded to a fire alarm at the location and put the fire out.
Alaheri was captured again, hours later, on surveillance video repeatedly punching a man in Hasidic garb, according to federal officials. There was no interaction between Alaheri and his victim prior to the assault.
He was arrested Friday, appearing to wear the same clothing he was wearing in the video footage of the assault.
If convicted, Alaheri faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, and a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment. He made his first appearance Saturday before a judge.