Four African-American Boys Arrested for Setting N.Y. Jewish School Bus Fire

Hate crime charges dropped against the four teens as police say evidence insufficient that Jewish site was motivation for arson.

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A school bus outside a Jewish school burning in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn, New York, May 8, 2016.
A school bus outside a Jewish school burning in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn, New York, May 8, 2016.Credit: JTA/YouTube Screenshot

Four more boys have been charged for allegedly setting ablaze a school bus parked outside a Brooklyn yeshiva.

On Thursday night, officials with the New York Police Department announced they had charged each boy, along with a fifth boy arrested earlier in the week, with hate crimes for Sunday’s arson. However, on Friday afternoon, an unidentified NYPD official told the Wall Street Journal they were dropping the hate crimes charges and just charging each with one count of arson and one count of criminal mischief.

Two of the boys facing charges are 11 years old, one is 12 and two are 14. All the boys in the surveillance video released by the police on Tuesday appear to be African-American. The official told the Wall Street Journal that after detectives interviewed each boy, they decided “there was not sufficient evidence that the Jewish affiliation [of the school bus] was the motivating factor.”

The boys carried cardboard pieces onto the unlocked bus parked outside the Beth Rivkah School for Girls in Crown Heights early Sunday evening, then set them on fire, according to police. No one was injured in the fire, but several prayer books and other items were destroyed.

Beth Rivkah is a Chabad school. Crown Heights, a racially mixed and gentrifying neighborhood, is home to Chabad’s world headquarters. In 1991, the neighborhood was rocked by days of rioting after an African-American boy was accidentally struck and killed by a car in the Chabad rebbe’s motorcade.