Man who allegedly threw Molotov cocktail, chemical at NYPD faces federal charge

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Sunday, April 18, 2021
Man accused of throwing Molotov cocktail at police faces federal charge
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There are new details after a man threw a Molotov cocktail at police in a scary encounter for NYPD officers Saturday.

EAST FLATBUSH, Brooklyn (WABC) -- There are new details after a man threw a Molotov cocktail at police in a scary encounter for NYPD officers Saturday.

Lionel Virgile, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, faces a federal charge of arson with injury that carries a 7-to-40-year prison sentence.

Virgile is in federal custody and will appear virtually Monday before a federal judge sitting in Downtown Brooklyn.

Investigators are still trying to determine if he had been intentionally targeting police.

Video from the police body camera around 8 a.m. Saturday showed police trying to stop the 44-year-old suspect for running a red light.

Police say he threw a bleach substance at the officer then took off.

The officers chased the car until it crashed into another vehicle on Snyder Ave in Brooklyn.

Along the way, Virgile allegedly tossed a lit Molotov cocktail at the police car.

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The officer who was splashed with bleach was treated at a hospital for skin and eye irritation. The Molotov cocktail did not go off and did not cause any injuries, police said.

Virgile was taken into custody, but three more devices were found inside his car.

Sources tell Eyewitness News writings of some type were also found -- although it's not clear what those say.

Virgile's ex-wife Marie Theodate described him as a troubled man who stopped taking medication several years ago.

She insists that when he was taking his medication, he was a good husband and father to his 18-year-old daughter. She believes had he gotten proper treatment, he would never hurt an officer.

Theodate said Virgile is bipolar and was diagnosed in 2008.

Eyewitness News spoke exclusively with the suspect's brother who agreed and said he suffers from mental illness and had been living in his car.

He had also been taken into custody before the incident, but let go.

NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea put out a message on Twitter, saying the incident is another reminder of how quickly a situation can change and the dangers cops face every day while they are protecting New Yorkers. Shea says it was a routine stop with a couple of calm cops that could have been seriously injured or worse.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn District Attorney may also be filing charges.

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