Texas State student arrested as suspect in Austin synagogue arson

AUSTIN, TX – An 18-year-old Texas State University student has been arrested and charged with arson for a fire at an Austin synagogue, officials said.

Franklin Barrett Sechriest was held on $100,000 bond for the October 31 fire at Congregation Beth Israel, KVIEW in Austin reported. The State of Texas has confirmed KXAN in Austin that Sechriest is a student, and that the university “denounces this heinous act of bigotry and violence and all recent anti-Semitic events in Austin, San Antonio and San Marcos”.

According to the Austin Fire Department, the blaze was a “small exterior fire” that caused no injuries but caused damage estimated at $25,000, including the synagogue’s wooden doors.

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Arson investigators said broken glass indicated an object may have been thrown at the building and flammable liquid accelerated the fire. An affidavit of arrest describes surveillance footage from multiple cameras on the property showing a suspect resembling Sechriest driving a black sport utility vehicle registered in the name of a woman living at the same address as Sechriest.

The synagogue fire came a week after a series of antisemitic incidents, including an anti-Semitic banner unfurled from an overpass on a busy boulevard. It was not immediately clear if the fire was related to these incidents.

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