Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Boy accused of setting Yeshiva school bus on fire charged with hate crime 

A group of wild kids tossed flaming sheets of cardboard onto a Brooklyn Jewish school's empty bus, setting a fire that engulfed the vehicle, surveillance images show.

It's not clear if the boys knew the bus belonged to the Beis Rivkah Yeshiva for girls in Crown Heights, but when police caught one of the vandals — an 11-year-old boy — they charged him with a hate crime.

Moments after the youths lit the cardboard at about 6 p.m. Sunday (top), the front of the bus erupted into a fireball at Brooklyn and Lefferts avenues, the video images show.

Several schoolgirls who were strolling by looked on in horror as clouds of dark smoke billowed into the air.

The FDNY quickly put out the blaze. All that was left Monday was the bus' charred and gutted shell, around which burned remains of Hebrew religious books were strewn on the ground.

"It's my kid's school and a kid's bus, so it's really sad," said Devorah Piekarski, the mother of a 7-year-old girl who attends Beis Rivkah.

Police soon caught one of the young alleged vandals and charged him with criminal mischief and arson as hate crimes, because investigators thought it was clear that the bus belonged to the Jewish school.

Jewish community members said this was one of several recent bias incidents.

"Over the past week, three significant attacks were perpetrated against Jews in Crown Heights," Barry Sugar, of the Jewish Leadership Council, wrote in a letter to the NYPD's 71st Precinct Monday. "This is an alarming trend that bears many similarities to attacks in the past — only more brazen and more violent."

The fire comes after a teen threw a brick at a Hasidic bus driver Thursday, shattering the vehicle's rear-view mirror, according to police. A 13-year-old also threw a metal rod at a Jewish student and punched him in the face Friday, police report.

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