An unemployed tow-truck driver was charged Tuesday with firebombing an Islamic cultural center in Queens and four other locations, including one in Elmont, over personal vendettas, officials said.
Ray Lazier Lengend, 40, of 89-04 215th St., Queens Village, Queens, was charged with five counts of criminal possession of a weapon (possession of an explosive), a single count of arson as a hate crime and four counts of arson.
"The suspect has made statements implicating himself in each of the five firebombings, indicating a personal grievance with each [location]," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. Police are investigating three other incidents between Dec. 26 and Sunday for which Lengend said he is responsible, Browne said.
Nassau police provided no information about Lengend.
Lengend, originally from Guyana, implicated himself in the five Sunday night attacks on four Queens sites, including the al-Khoei Islamic Center and a Hindu prayer center, and a private home in Elmont, Browne said.
Most of the buildings targeted sustained little or no damage. But one residence in Queens, on 107th Avenue, which sustained substantial fire damage after living room curtains ignited, was targeted in error, said a law-enforcement official familiar with the investigation who asked not to be identified. The suspect told police he had a dispute with someone on the block over a crack deal, but apparently mistakenly attacked the damaged home, the official said.
Empty Starbucks Frappuccino bottles apparently filled with gasoline were used in four of the attacks, while a beer bottle may have been used on the 107th Avenue home, the official said. Three empty Frappuccino bottles were found in the suspect's car, the official said. The suspect said disputes prompted him to carry out the attacks, including an argument with an "in-law" living at the Elmont home on Glafil Street, the official said.
The mosque attack was provoked after the suspect was denied the use of a bathroom, while the bombing of the Hindu prayer center at 88-20 170th St., Jamaica, Queens, was precipitated by an argument the suspect had as far back as 2006 with someone living at the building, the official said. The bodega was targeted because the suspect was caught trying to shoplift Frappuccino and milk last month, the official said.
Police arrested Lengend early Tuesday after an overnight stakeout. Late Monday night, two detectives from the 103rd Precinct -- Charles LoPresti and Richard Johnson -- saw a late-model Buick with Virginia tags and a partial plate number that had been recorded on surveillance tapes, the law-enforcement source said. The detectives watched the car for eight hours near 214th Street and 98th Avenue in Jamaica until 7:50 a.m. Tuesday, when the suspect approached it and was taken in for questioning. The car had been stolen from the Avis auto rental at Kennedy Airport on Friday, the source said.
Lengend has an arrest record in the city and Long Island dating back to 2003, including a third-degree weapons-possession charge in Hempstead, which led to a guilty plea and sentence of time served, the law enforcement official said.
With Igor Kossov
and John Valenti