This article originally appeared on VICE US.
An FBI counterterrorism unit in Massachusetts arrested a racist extremist who allegedly planted an explosive at a Jewish assisted living facility with the intent to kill some of its residents. The person had potential links to an online white supremacist organization.
The news is yet another example of racist extremists attempting a terrorist attack during the coronavirus pandemic. Experts have noted that some of these terrorists, who adhere to the doctrine of accelerationism, see the pandemic as an opportunity to hasten the collapse of society.
On April 2, police in East Longmeadow discovered what was described as a bloodstained Molotov cocktail, which appeared to have failed to completely ignite, in front of Ruth’s House—a Jewish care facility servicing seniors of multiple religious denominations. Investigators linked the blood to the DNA of area resident John Michael Rathbun, 36, who was then arrested on two charges of attempted arson.
On an unnamed social media platform in early March, the facility had been mentioned as a potential target by a white supremacist organization promoting terrorist attacks on mosques, synagogues, and people of color in the U.S. and elsewhere. After users discussed where best to carry out a mass killing one user mentioned, “that jew nursing home in longmeadow massachusetts.” A month later, on April 3, the same user is believed to have earmarked the date on another social media platform used by the organization as “jew killing day” and listed their target as “Jew Nursery Home.”
It is unclear in the release if the FBI is alleging the user in question was Rathbun.
“The charges in this case allege that the defendant tried to blow up a Jewish assisted living residence with a five gallon gas canister, at the same time that the facility was being discussed on white supremacist online platforms,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “We will find, investigate and aggressively prosecute anyone engaged in this kind of mayhem.”
In the Department of Justice release, Lelling noted that racially-motivated individuals often use times of “national crisis” as an opportunity for violence. In March a neo-Nazi in Missouri was killed in a gunfight with the FBI after agents disrupted his plans to bomb a hospital struggling with the coronoavirus pandemic.