Police Search for Suspects Following N.Y. Jewish School Bus Blaze

'Clearly this was a religious school bus. Anyone in the community knows that,' says police officer.

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An archive photo from 2008 of Crown Heights residents waiting in line to vote.
An archive photo from 2008 of Crown Heights residents waiting in line to vote.Credit: AP

Police on Tuesday were looking for five black youths seen on video torching a Jewish school bus in a New York neighborhood marred by race riots in the 1990s.

An 11-year-old boy already was arrested and charged as a juvenile with arson and criminal mischief in the Sunday evening blaze, which was being investigated as a possible hate crime. Surveillance video shows a group of boys running off the bus as it catches on fire, police said.

The bus belonged to the Bnos Chomesh Academy, a girls' high school in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood, where tensions between the Jewish and black communities living side by side spurred riots in 1991.

Police Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said a group of six youths took flat cardboard boxes on the unlocked bus and set them on fire on the seats.
"It was purposefully done with prior planning," Boyce said. "Clearly this was a religious school bus. Anyone in the community knows that."

It was the third incident being investigated by police as a possible hate crime during the past week in the neighborhood. On Friday, a bus driver for a different Jewish school said his side mirror was pelted with a brick and smashed by someone.

The day before, a man dressed in religious Jewish clothing said he was harassed by a 13-year-old boy who shot rubber bands at him, police said. The man said he ran after and caught the boy, who punched him the face. Police said the man held the boy until they arrived. The boy was arrested on an assault charge and was being treated as a juvenile.

Boyce said the incidents in Crown Heights are "troubling."

"We're hoping to get out in front of it and make these arrests and close these things out," he said.

In 1991, riots began after a 7-year-old black boy, Gavin Cato, was struck and killed by a driver belonging to the ultra-Orthodox Lubavitch community. Hours later, a group of blacks shouting "Get the Jew!" fatally stabbed Yankel Rosenbaum, who was visiting from Australia.

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