A man's body with chest wounds was found in a car that had been set on fire behind a Freeport synagogue, police said.
Freeport police and firefighters responded about 7 p.m. Friday to a call of a car on fire behind the B'nai Israel synagogue at 91 N. Bayview Ave., police said. The synagogue's janitor heard popping noises from the parking lot and found the burning car, according to Nassau Det. Lt. Kevin Smith.
Smith said the incident did not seem to be connected with the synagogue. "We really do not believe it had anything to do with Hanukkah or the temple," he said at a news conference Saturday at police headquarters in Mineola.
The body was found in the backseat of the Dodge after the fire was extinguished, police said. The man was pronounced dead at 10 p.m. and taken to the Nassau County medical examiner's office. Police said the car had been deliberately set on fire.
The man's upper torso had signs of trauma, though police did not say what the trauma was from. Authorities were investigating if the man was dead before the car was set on fire.
The synagogue's Friday night service was canceled, said worshiper Marvin Fricklas, 76, who tried to attend the Hanukkah service that night.
Shane Troche, 18, lives next door to the synagogue. "We were shocked," Troche said. "It's crazy. I can't imagine somebody really did that."
People often cut through the wooded area behind his home and the temple, Troche said. Railroad tracks slice through open land behind both properties.
Troche said he smelled smoke Friday night and police told him of the body in the car shortly after. "It's the first time something like this has happened," he said.
Yesterday morning, Freeport police cars remained in the parking lot behind the temple as worshipers arrived for a service.
The investigation was ongoing, police said. Anyone with information regarding the incident was asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-244-TIPS. All callers will remain anonymous.