Brooklyn church vandalism suspect arrested, charged, police say

BENSONHURST, Brooklyn (WABC) -- A 29-year-old Brooklyn man has been arrested in connection with an arson last week at a Brooklyn synagogue and for vandalizing a church a week earlier.

According to police, 29-year-old Ali Alaheri was taken into custody around 6 p.m. Friday.

The Brooklyn native has been charged with one federal count of criminal mischief as a hate crime.

Ali Alaheri is due to make an initial appearance Saturday in Brooklyn federal court after he was arrested Friday in Dobbs Ferry by the NYPD and the ATF.

Alaheri is under investigation for at least two other hate crimes in New York City, including a subway assault and the assault of a Hasidic man, a law enforcement official told ABC News.

At about 1:30 a.m. on May 13, Alaheri allegedly entered the grounds of the Saint Athanasius Church on Bay Parkway in Bensonhurst and tore down a large Cross with a statue of Jesus Christ affixed to it. The individual also removed an American flag that was hanging on the front of a church building which he then proceeded to burn, causing damage to a fence, the NYPD said.

The damaged Crucifix was discovered by the parish pastor, Monsignor David Cassato, around 8 a.m. Friday on his walk from the rectory to the academy to greet the students.

"This was truly an act of hatred and today is the saddest day of my twenty years here at this parish," said Monsignor David Cassato. "I went over and spoke to the students in the school about what happened, telling them that hate never wins. We are, and must be, a community that continues to share the message of Easter, that which is of love, hope, and forgiveness."

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help restore the church.

On May 19, Alaheri set fire to a Brooklyn yeshiva/synagogue, federal prosecutors said.

According to court records, he was captured on surveillance video piling garbage bags against the side of a building on 36th Street. Alaheri was recorded igniting the garbage bags.

Several hours later, Alaheri was again captured on surveillance video, this time repeatedly punching a man wearing traditional Hasidic garb. There was no interaction between Alaheri and the victim prior to the assault.

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