LAS VEGAS (KXNT) – A suspect was arrested and faces arson and burglary charges after investigators said he lit a pair of fires at a Las Vegas synagogue Monday evening in a possible hate crime, according to authorities.
Las Vegas Police arrested Afshin Bahrampour in a shopping center parking lot across the street from the scene of two fires set at the Chabad of Southern Nevada Desert Torah Academy at 1261 Arville Street late Monday, Las Vegas Fire and Rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski said.
Firefighters were called out to handle a car fire in the synagogue’s parking lot just after 8 p.m. Monday. Crews quickly extinguished the blaze, which caused significant damage to the vehicle and minor damage to two others.
While firefighters were cleaning up after the car fire, synagogue personnel told investigators they had extinguished a mysterious fire in a waste basket inside their building two hours earlier, Szymanski said.
Though that fire caused no damage, a investigation of video surveillance taken in and around the building showed a suspect on the property during both incidents.
With investigators from the Las Vegas Fire and Rescue arson unit, Las Vegas Metro Police and federal ATF agents coordinating on the case, a check of the parking lot across the street led to the discovery of Bahrampour.
After interviewing Bahrampour, the 47-year-old was arrested and charged with one count of first degree arson, three counts of third degree arson and one count of burglary.
Szymanski said it was too early to determine whether the man’s actions constituted a hate crime, although the incident would remain under investigation.
“The general concern is that he came back twice,” Rabbi Shea Harlig said told The Associated Press. “We have him on video both times.” Harlig said the damaged vehicles belonged to congregants at a Monday night prayer service.
Sandra Breault, FBI spokeswoman in Las Vegas, said a determination wasn’t immediately made whether Bahrampour will face state or federal charges.
Bahrampour was convicted in 2015 in Las Vegas of obtaining money by false pretenses and sentenced to time served, according to court records.
He pleaded an equivalent of no contest last September to a misdemeanor attempted arson charge. Court records showed he was sentenced to 90 days in the county jail.