(Update) Arlington Police Continue to Investigate Suspicious Fire

Arlington Police Department
Julie Flaherty, Acting Chief of Police
112 Mystic St.
Arlington, MA 02474Arlington Health and Human Services
Christine Bongiorno, Director
27 Maple St.
Arlington, MA 02474

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Media Contact: John Guilfoil
Phone: 617-993-0003
Email: [email protected]

Arlington Police Continue to Investigate Suspicious Fire

Fire Occurred Outside Home of Rabbi

Facts and Circumstances Remain Under Active Investigation

ARLINGTON — Acting Chief of Police Julie Flaherty and Health and Human Services Director Christine Bongiorno report that officials in Arlington continue to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding a fire that occurred outside the home of a local rabbi.

On Saturday, May 11, 2019 at 11 p.m., Arlington Police and Fire responded to a home on Lake Street to investigate an activated fire alarm. Upon arrival, rescuers were met by the the adult male and female homeowners and their three children, who were inside a vehicle parked in the driveway.  The male resident told police that he, his wife and children exited the home after they heard the fire alarm and smelled the odor of smoke. Firefighters located a small fire burning on the wood shingles of one side of the home. The fire was quickly extinguished, and firefighters limited the damage to the exterior shingles only.  A fire department investigator and a police supervisor arrived on scene shortly afterward, and it was quickly determined that the fire was suspicious.

The male resident reported to police that he is a rabbi and that he conducts religious services at his home and that his address, as a religious site, is publicly available on the internet. He had received no threats and did not notice any suspicious activity in the area recently.

At this time, the Arlington Police Department has not uncovered any information or evidence that indicates that the family was targeted or that there was any specific motivation or bias surrounding this incident. Nonetheless, the department is leaving open and actively investigating the possibility of a hate crime. No graffiti or other messages were found, and no evidence of chemical accelerants was immediately found. Arlington Police are collaborating with other law enforcement agencies to aid in the investigation.

“Out of respect for the privacy of the resident, in the early phases of this investigation, we did not draw attention to the fact that the resident is a rabbi, but as this investigation has continued and after consulting with the resident and the Arlington Human Rights Commission, we unfortunately have to leave open all possibilities until the investigation is complete,” Chief Flaherty said. “We strongly encourage anyone who may have information about this fire or the suspicious person seen leaving the area to contact the Arlington Police Department.”

The Arlington Police Department has added extra patrols to the area out of an abundance of caution. The Department has also met and is working in collaboration with cultural groups.

“Arlington is a community that rallies around its own, and we stand ready to support our residents and Arlington’s Jewish community in any possible way,” said Arlington Human Rights Commission Co-Chair Naomi Greenfield. “We are keenly aware of the rise in hate speech and biased-related incidents around the country, though we hope the investigation will conclude that this is not one of them. There is no place in our community to incite fear and threaten the safety and security of our residents on the basis of their beliefs and religious background. We encourage the Arlington community to focus its support on assisting with the investigation if possible and extending support to the affected family and the Center for Jewish Life in Arlington/Belmont.”

During the initial investigation, a neighbor approached police and offered footage from his outdoor security camera. The footage, which has been released to the public, shows a man or woman with a specific gait/posture walking away from the area during the time of the fire.

Police are hopeful that someone will recognize the suspicious person or their particularly way of walking, and that public input will lead to their identification.

Anyone with information on this incident, or who recognizes the individual in the surveillance video, is asked to contact the Arlington Police Department at 781-643-1212.

Click here to access the surveillance footage.