Suspect sought in attempted arson at Lakeview synagogue

Police are trying to identify this person in connection with the attempted arson of a synagogue. | CPD

Chicago police late Sunday released this image of a person they are trying to identify in connection with an attempted arson at a Lakeview synagogue.

The offender used Molotov cocktails in an attempt to burn the Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation at 540 West Melrose as well as a neighboring facility, police said. No one was injured and no property damage was reported.

Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel (left) and the Heller JCC (right) | Google

Police said the offender appears to be a man with a light complexion who wore a black jacket with a hoodie, dark pants, and black shoes while carrying a black bag. In the image released by police, the man is seen walking on a driveway between the synagogue and the neighboring Florence G. Heller Jewish Community Center around 12:34 a.m. on Sunday.

Chicago Police Deputy Supt. Anthony Riccio last night ordered police to pay special attention to all Jewish schools, synagogues, and businesses after an attempted arson in Lakeview and criminal damage to vehicles on the Far North Side.

As CWBChicago first reported, “The remains of several incendiary devices were found on the perimeter of our shul,” Rabbi David Wolkenfeld wrote in a letter to the congregation Sunday. Security footage “revealed that an individual entered the shul parking lot shortly after midnight and attempted to commit an act of arson.”

Three broken glass bottles that contained an unknown substance were recovered along with charred black cloth towels, according to Chicago police.

Detectives from Area North and CPD’s arson unit were on-scene for several hours Sunday collecting evidence and reviewing surveillance footage. CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted tonight that investigators have “good video evidence.”

Wolkenfeld said, “the police are not aware of any specific threat targeting our building or community.”

“Nonetheless,” he wrote, “the police and FBI are treating this crime with great seriousness.”

Guglielmi also said tonight that police are investigating a pattern of cars having windows smashed outside of synagogues in the 24th (Rogers Park) Police District. The department earlier on Sunday issued an alert about vehicles having windows broken with bricks or rocks in the 24th and 20th (Lincoln) Police Districts. Guglielmi tonight confirmed that some of the crimes mentioned in the alert may be connected to nearby Jewish establishments.

The alert said a man or men wearing long hooded jackets, dark pants, and light colored gym shoes had broken windows of parked cars at the following locations and times:

1200 block of W. Arthur Ave. on May 1 at approximately 3:00 PM
7500 block of N. Ridge Blvd. on May 3-4 between 9:00 PM – 6:00 AM
4900 block of N. Marine Dr. on May 7-8 between 5:30 PM – 6:45 AM
7400 block of N. Sheridan Rd. on May 9-10 between 9:45 PM – 12:00 AM
1900 block of W. Lawrence Ave. on May 11-12 between 9:50 PM- 9:45 AM
1100 block of W. Columbia Ave. on May 12-13 between 2:00 PM- 7:30 AM
900 block of W. Carmen Ave. on May 14-15 between 6:00 PM – 7:50 AM
7100 block of N. Paulina St. on May 15-16 between 10:00 PM – 8:00 AM
2800 block of W. Chase Ave. on May 18 between 3:19 AM – 4:00 AM
2900 block of W. Sherwin Ave. on May 18 between 3:00 AM – 4:00 AM
7500 block of N. Rockwell St. on May 18 between 12:55 PM – 1:20 PM
2800 block of W. Touhy Ave. on May 18 between 3:00 AM – 4:00 AM
1000 block of W. Balmoral Ave. on 17-18 between 3:30 PM – 12:25 PM
2900 block of W. Jerome St. on May 18 at approximately 6:30 PM

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