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Teen's Alleged Journal Entry: 'I Set a Synagogue on Fire'

Authorities say Franklin Barrett Sechriest, 18, was found with Nazi propaganda
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2021 11:13 AM CST
Teen's Alleged Journal Entry: 'I Set a Synagogue on Fire'
Stock image. Authorities have identified the alleged arsonist in Austin as 18-year-old Texas State University student Franklin Barrett Sechriest.   (Getty Images/maximus92)

A Texas teenager set fire to an Austin synagogue before confessing to the act in a journal that included racial slurs, authorities say. Texas State University student Franklin Barrett Sechriest, who resigned as a private in the Texas National Guard earlier this month, was arrested Friday on charges of arson. It's not yet clear whether he'll also be charged with a hate crime. The 18-year-old was found with stickers bearing swastikas and an "X" over the faces of people wearing the Star of David, according to a criminal complaint. "Would you kill them all to seize your rights? The price of freedom is paid in blood," one sticker read, per the Daily Beast. Sechriest's journal allegedly included an Oct. 31 entry reading, "I set a synagogue on fire," per the New York Times.

Congregation Beth Israel had erupted in flames on Halloween night. Security footage showed a person carrying a five-gallon fuel jug and a roll of toilet paper to the entrance of the synagogue moments before the glow of fire was seen, according to the complaint. No one was injured in the blaze, but synagogue officials described $150,000 in damages. Rabbi Steven Folberg said the reform Jewish temple was saved only because a driver spotted the flames and called 911. He added what initially appeared as a Halloween prank evolved into something more sinister. Authorities said Sechriest's vehicle was captured on security footage from the synagogue on Oct. 28. "Scout out a target," Sechriest had written in his journal on that date, authorities say, per KXAN.

Authorities say he also had items commonly used to make Molotov cocktails, and a credit card statement showing the purchase of a five-gallon fuel jug. The fire came only a week after students vandalized an Austin high school with swastikas and slurs. Around the same time, people displayed a banner reading "Vax the Jews" from an overpass while giving the Nazi salute. Hundreds of flyers with anti-semitic language also appeared in neighborhoods, per the Texas Tribune. In the aftermath, people of various faiths have donated more than $100,000 for the fire cleanup, the Times reports. "When any of us are attacked, all of us are attacked," said imam Islam Mossaad, who supplied $5,000 raised by North Austin Muslim Community Center. (More arson stories.)

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