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Texas State student faces federal charge for anti-Semitic arson

Franklin Barrett Sechriest is facing a federal charge. (Austin Fire Department)

An 18-year-old Texas State University student is now facing a federal arson charge following his arrest for setting fire to Congregation Beth Israel. Court documents revealed Monday show the teenager's inner thoughts before and after the fire.


According to the federal criminal complaint affidavit, Franklin Barrett Sechriest used an accelerant to intentionally start the fire. Sechriest, a criminal justice major and member of the 6th Brigade of the Texas National Guard, was already facing an arson charge in state court for the same case, according to the affidavit.

The Austin Fire Department responded to calls of a "small exterior fire" outside the synagogue around 9 p.m. on Halloween night. Surveillance footage from the evening picked up a man, who is presumed to be Sechriest, carrying a "jerry can" and driving a 2017 Jeep Compass. The fire caused an estimated $25,000 worth of damage.

A motion for detention has also been filed for Sechriest to be held without bond.

According to U.S. District Court records, Sechriest kept a handwritten journal that contained anti-Semitic and racist entries. Among his laundry list of things to do, including "meditate," "get matched on Tinder," and "work on novel," were alarming entries– including "scare off kids with alien mark," racial slurs and "tell mom about [REDACTED]."

On Oct. 28, Sechriest wrote "scout out a target" and police say surveillance footage picked up his vehicle that night. On Oct. 31, the journal read, "I set a synagogue on fire," and "get worried when it mentions they are 'hopeful' a suspect will be caught."

While executing a search warrant, the affidavit said investigators found an American Express card linked to Sechriest with a statement showing the purchase of a green five-gallon fuel jug on Sept. 6. Authorities also found three 33-ounce glass bottles, three 32-ounce bottles of lighter fluid, a lighter and stormproof matches in his car.

Agent Thomas P. Joy said those things are commonly used to make Molotov cocktails.

Investigators also found three stickers in Sechriest's vehicle, including one with a swastika motif, one that said "They hate your ancestors. They hate your culture. They hate your nation. They hate your religion. It is okay to hate them back," and one that said, "no invader is innocent."

Sechriest was released on bond on Nov. 11 and was taken back into custody the following day, according to Travis County Jail records.

Congregation Beth Israel Senior Rabbi Steve Folberg said in a statement: "We denounce all acts of bigotry and violence, especially those motivated by blind hatred of any of the proud and distinctive communities that enrich our civic life. We will remain strong and vigilant in the ongoing work of justice, safety and peace for ourselves and all our neighbors."

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