ARLINGTON (CBS) – Arlington police are calling a fire outside a local rabbi’s home “suspicious” and are asking for the public’s help in identifying a person seen walking away from the area at the time of the fire.
The small fire burning on the wood shingles on one side of the Lake Street home was quickly extinguished by firefighters Saturday night.
“Out of respect for the privacy of the resident, in the early phases of this investigation, we did not draw attention to the fact that the resident is a rabbi, but as this investigation has continued and after consulting with the resident and the Arlington Human Rights Commission, we, unfortunately, have to leave open all possibilities until the investigation is complete,” Acting Police Chief Julie Flaherty said. “We strongly encourage anyone who may have information about this fire or the suspicious person seen leaving the area to contact the Arlington Police Department.”
The rabbi was in the home with his wife and three children at the time of the fire, but the family was not injured.
Arlington police say they haven’t uncovered evidence that the fire was targeted. The rabbi conducts religious services from his home, so his address is publicly available. However, no graffiti or other messages were found and no evidence of chemical accelerants was immediately found. The rabbi said he did not receive any threats or notice suspicious behavior.
The Arlington Police Department has added extra patrols to the area and is working in collaboration with cultural groups.
“Arlington is a community that rallies around its own, and we stand ready to support our residents and Arlington’s Jewish community in any possible way,” said Arlington Human Rights Commission Co-Chairman Naomi Greenfield. “We are keenly aware of the rise in hate speech and biased-related incidents around the country, though we hope the investigation will conclude that this is not one of them. There is no place in our community to incite fear and threaten the safety and security of our residents on the basis of their beliefs and religious background. We encourage the Arlington community to focus its support on assisting with the investigation if possible and extending support to the affected family and the Center for Jewish Life in Arlington/Belmont.”
Police say surveillance video acquired from a neighbor shows a man or woman with a specific gait/posture walking away from the area during the time of the fire. Police are asking anyone who recognizes the person to call 781-643-1212.