Man Charged in Firebombing of Anti-Abortion Group Is ID’d From DNA on a Burrito

A Wisconsin man was identified from DNA pulled from a partially eaten burrito and arrested in the firebombing of an anti-abortion lobbying group’s office last year, prosecutors said.

The man, Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury, 29, of Madison, Wis., was arrested at Logan International Airport in Boston on Tuesday, according to the office of the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin in Madison.

He was charged with one felony count of attempting to cause damage by means of fire or an explosive.

“According to the complaint, Mr. Roychowdhury used an incendiary device in violation of federal law in connection with his efforts to terrorize and intimidate a private organization,” Matthew G. Olsen, assistant attorney general of the national security division of the Justice Department, said in a statement.

Brendan O. Kelley, a federal public defender for Mr. Roychowdhury, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

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The investigation stemmed from a fire that was reported at about 6 a.m. on May 8, 2022, at an office building in Madison. The blaze had been started by a Molotov cocktail.

Inside were the headquarters of Wisconsin Family Action, an anti-abortion group that appeared to be the target of the attack. The police said that they found graffiti spray-painted on the building’s exterior that read, “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either.”

No one from the group was in the building at the time of the attack, and no injuries were reported from the fire, which was extinguished by Madison firefighters.

The attack took place nearly a week after the leak of a draft ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that would have overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. The leak led to protests by abortion rights supporters around the country. In June, the court overturned Roe v. Wade and the decision led to celebrations by anti-abortion supporters.

Wisconsin Family Action is a nonprofit political advocacy group that promotes conservative policies in the state on several issues, including abortion. The group’s president, Julaine K. Appling, declined to comment when reached by telephone on Wednesday.

As part of the investigation, officers obtained DNA samples from three individuals, which had been gathered from evidence found at the scene, but the samples did not match any profiles in a federal database.

In January, officers who were monitoring the State Capitol in Madison for protests related to an officer-involved shooting saw several people spray-painting graffiti on the grounds, according to court documents. Some of the graffiti had similarities to the graffiti at the Wisconsin Family Action office.

Further review of footage from the protests showed two people leaving the area in a white pickup truck. Investigators traced the vehicle back to Mr. Roychowdhury’s residence in Madison, court documents said, and they began to follow him.

Earlier this month, officers observed him throwing a fast food bag into a public trash can at a parking lot in Madison. The officers retrieved the bag, which included “a quarter portion of a partially eaten burrito wrapped in waxed paper,” according to court documents.

On March 17, a forensic biologist compared the DNA evidence recovered from the scene of the fire to the DNA collected from the food.

“The forensic biologist found the two samples matched and likely were the same individual,” according to prosecutors.

The U.S. attorney’s office said that Mr. Roychowdhury had traveled from Madison this month to Portland, Maine, and that he had a one-way ticket for a flight from Boston to Guatemala City that was scheduled to depart on Tuesday morning, when he was arrested.

Mr. Roychowdhury appeared in U.S. District Court in Boston on Tuesday and he was being held in custody for his detention hearing on Thursday, said a spokeswoman for the office of the U.S. attorney. A date had not been set for his appearance in federal court in Madison.

If convicted, Mr. Roychowdhury faces a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum of 20 years, prosecutors said.

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