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Texas State Guard member arrested after setting fire synagogue on Halloween causing $25k in damage

Franklin Barrett Sechriest, 18, has been arrested and charged with arson for setting a synagogue in Austin, Texas, on fire on Halloween around 9pm

A former Texas State Guard has been arrested for allegedly setting fire to a synagogue on Halloween, causing $25,000 worth of damage – as cops reveal he then wrote about it in his series of journals which also described his disdain for Jewish people.

Franklin Barrett Sechriest, 18, ‘set an intentional fire’ at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Austin around 9pm on October 31 and was charged with arson, which has a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. 

According to a criminal complaint filed in Western Texas US District Court, investigators ‘observed patterns consistent with the use of liquid accelerant,’ suggesting Sechriest may used gasoline to ignite the fire.

Surveillance footage from the synagogue’s parking lot also showed Sechriest getting out of a black Jeep Cherokee wearing green utility pants, a black t-shirt and black face mask. 

Cops found stickers with Nazi propaganda in Sechriest's car. One pictured swastikas bookending a quote that read: 'The price of freedom is paid in blood'

Cops found stickers with Nazi propaganda in Sechriest’s car. One pictured swastikas bookending a quote that read: ‘The price of freedom is paid in blood’

Sechriest’s journal suggested he had a disdain for Jewish people. In his October 31 entry (above) he admitted: ‘I set a synagogue on fire’ 

Surveillance video from the synagogue's parking lot showed Sechriest walking into the place of worship wearing green cargo pants, a black t-shirt and a black face mask while carrying a five-gallon VP Racing Fuel utility jug

Surveillance video from the synagogue’s parking lot showed Sechriest walking into the place of worship wearing green cargo pants, a black t-shirt and a black face mask while carrying a five-gallon VP Racing Fuel utility jug

He was seen ‘carrying a green container in one hand – similar in size, shape and color to a green five-gallon VP Racing Fuel utility jug – and a roll of toilet paper in the other hand,’ the court documents read.

Investigators noted that although the burning synagogue wasn’t in view in the video, it did manage to ‘capture the distinct glow of a fire ignition’.

The complaint then detailed how Sechriest got back into the SUV and waited inside the car for ‘several seconds’ before leaving the parking lot.  

Detectives later searched Sechriest’s belongings at his house in San Marcos and found the same outfit as was seen in the security footage and an American Express card that belonged to Sechriest.

His bank statements revealed that on September 6, Sechriest used the card at Cabela’s sporting goods to buy a five-gallon VP Racing Fuel utility jug.

Cops also found three 32-ounce bottles of lighter fluid, a lighter, an orange storm-proof match case with matches inside and three empty glass bottles in Sechriest’s Jeep.

Firefighters pictured investigating Congregation Beth Israel, where Sechriest 'set an intentional fire'

Firefighters pictured investigating Congregation Beth Israel, where Sechriest ‘set an intentional fire’

According to a criminal complaint filed in Western Texas US District Court on November 12, investigators 'observed patterns consistent with the use of liquid accelerant'

According to a criminal complaint filed in Western Texas US District Court on November 12, investigators ‘observed patterns consistent with the use of liquid accelerant’

The criminal complaint noted that ‘these items are consistent with materials that can be used and combined to product destructive devices known as Molotov cocktails’ – which are also known as bottle bombs or poor man’s grenades.

Three cryptic stickers were also found in Sechriest’s car.  

One read: ‘Would you kill them all to seize your rights? The price of freedom is paid in blood’ and pictured a policeman, politician and doctor donning the Jewish Star of David all with a red ‘X’ over their face.

There were also two red swastikas bookending the quote. 

‘They hate your ancestors… They hate your nation… They hate your religion… And they think it’s funny. It’s okay to hate them back,’ the other side of the sticker said.

The third had a drawing of an undocumented family being eyed through a rifle scope with a caption reading: ‘No invader is innocent.’

Cops also uncovered a school planner and a series of journals. Sechriest was a student at Texas State University and his planner had the usual ‘orientation’ and ‘school starts’ scribbled on different dates in August.  

But across August 19 to 20 the teen pyromaniac wrote: ‘N****r appreciation class,’ suggesting Sechriest had disdain towards multiple groups of people. 

The same entry where the teen pyromaniac admitted to setting the synagogue on fire he also included a list of to dos, such as 'run a Duolingo marathon, get matched on Tinder, work on novel (and) go to wild wings'

The same entry where the teen pyromaniac admitted to setting the synagogue on fire he also included a list of to dos, such as ‘run a Duolingo marathon, get matched on Tinder, work on novel (and) go to wild wings’

An excerpt from Sechriest’s journal dated October 28, 2021, (above) had the phrase ‘scout out a target’

In many of his notes Sechriest added the word 'redacted' and scribbled out parts in black ink. 'Check reports on [redacted],' he wrote in one entry, suggesting he 'was tracking the progress of investigation from media reports,' the court filing said

In many of his notes Sechriest added the word ‘redacted’ and scribbled out parts in black ink. ‘Check reports on [redacted],’ he wrote in one entry, suggesting he ‘was tracking the progress of investigation from media reports,’ the court filing said

‘An excerpt from (Sechriest’s) journal dated October 28, 2021,’ had the phrase ‘scout out a target, which comports with the activities seen on synagogue video surveillance,’ the court documents read.

Then, Halloween’s journal entry read: ‘I set a synagogue on fire.’ 

The next line said: ‘Return to dorm, give Mom the modified deets.’

The same entry also included a list of to dos Sechriest wrote to himself, including ‘run a Duolingo marathon, get matched on Tinder, work on novel (and) go to wild wings’.

Sechriest’s entry from November 2 ‘appears to indicate that (he) was tracking the progress of investigation from media reports,’ the criminal complaint noted.

‘Get worried when it mentions they were “hopeful and suspect will be caught,”‘ Sechriest wrote.

In many of his notes he added the word ‘redacted’ and scribbled out parts in black ink. ‘Pay cash for [redacted],’ he wrote in one entry. 

The criminal complaint, which was filed on November 12, added that the investigation of Congregation Beth Israel concluded that the fire caused $25,000 in damages.

Meanwhile, the synagogue estimated the damage was more than $150,000, according to The Daily Beast

Cops found a school planner in Sechriest’s – a student at Texas State University – car. ‘N****r appreciation class,’ suggesting Sechriest had disdain towards multiple groups of people

Surveillance footage from the synagogue's parking lot showed Sechriest getting out of a black Jeep Cherokee (pictured)

Surveillance footage from the synagogue’s parking lot showed Sechriest getting out of a black Jeep Cherokee (pictured)

Sechriest was initially caught after investigators with the Austin Fire Department matched his license plate number with the plates on the Jeep that were seen in the surveillance video

Sechriest was initially caught after investigators with the Austin Fire Department matched his license plate number with the plates on the Jeep that were seen in the surveillance video

Officials at Congregation Beth Israel (pictured) estimated the damage was more than $150,000

Officials at Congregation Beth Israel (pictured) estimated the damage was more than $150,000

Synagogue board member Oliver Bernstein, Senior Rabbi Steve Folberg and Beth Israel President Lori Adelman told members in a note sent out on November 9: ‘What we initially thought (and hoped) amounted to minimal, external damage to the Sanctuary doors, has turned out to be much more extensive.’

It added that the worship space will be unusable for ‘much longer’ and services with be held in the building’s auditorium ‘for quite some time’ going forward. 

As of the day the documents were filed Sechriest was reportedly a member in the Texas National Guard. However, a spokesperson for the Texas Military Department, which oversees the Guard, reportedly told The Daily Beast that Sechriest ‘is no longer a member of the Texas State Guard’.

‘He resigned earlier this month,’ they added.

Sechriest was initially caught after investigators with the Austin Fire Department matched his license plate number with the plates on the Jeep that were seen in the surveillance video.

The plates led authorities to Sechriest’s home in San Marcos, where he lives with his mother Nicole, according to an arrest warrant

Federal prosecutors have asked that Sechriest be held without bond.


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