A partially-eaten burrito and an Instagram post led to the arrest Tuesday of a man suspected of fire-bombing a Wisconsin anti-abortion lobbying group’s office in May 2022.
Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury, 29, of Madison, Wisconsin, was charged Monday in federal court with one count of attempting to cause damage by means of fire or an explosive “to terrorize and intimidate a private organization,” assistant U.S. attorney general Matthew Olsen said in a statement Tuesday from the U.S. attorney’s office for the western district of Wisconsin.
Authorities had been searching for nearly a year for Roychowdhury, who is accused of setting fire to the offices of Wisconsin Family Action on May 8, 2022. At the scene of that incident, investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives found evidence of two Molotov cocktails, one of which failed to ignite.
Also found spray-painted on the outside of the building was, “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either.”
No one was in the office at the time of the incident, which took place a week after a leaked draft of U.S. Supreme Court decision showing a majority of justices planned to vote to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. (In June 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that Americans no longer have that constitutional right.)
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DNA collected at Wisc. firebombing eventually matched, authorities say
Investigators collected DNA at the scene but did not get an immediate match.
Subsequently, police monitoring surveillance video from a protest at the state Capitol in Madison on Jan. 21, 2023 saw a suspect spray painting, “We will get revenge” in a style resembling the graffiti from the May 2022 incident, according to the complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.
That protest came in the wake of the police shooting and killing of a 26-year-old man in Atlanta.
Using additional surveillance video, investigators identified a white Toyota pickup leaving that scene. Its license plate led to Roychowdhury’s residence in Madison, according to the complaint.
Investigators also found an Instagram post about the Jan. 21, 2023 “Stop Cop City” event with a “like” from what looked to be Roychowdhury’s Instagram profile, the complaint says.
Police began following him and on March 1 collected from a trash can a bag of fast food including a partially-eaten burrito he had thrown away, according to the complaint. A forensic biologist with the ATF found the DNA sample from the burrito and DNA from the scene of the firebombing “matched and likely were the same individual,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
Officers arrested Roychowdhury at Boston Logan International Airport on Tuesday. He had traveled from Madison, Wisc., to Portland, Maine, and had purchased a one-way ticket for Tuesday flying from Boston to Guatemala City, the U.S. attorney’s said.
Roychowdhury made an initial appearance in federal court in Boston on Tuesday and has a detention hearing for Thursday. Roychowdhury’s attorney, Brendan O. Kelley, who is listed in online court records as a federal public defender, declined comment when reached by phone by the Associated Press after Tuesday’s hearing.
A date for his appearance in federal court in Madison has not been set. If convicted, Roychowdhury faces a mandatory minimum penalty of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison.
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Contributing: Drake Bentley of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Associated Press.
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.