Federal prosecutors in Massachusetts connected Rathbun’s alleged actions to a white supremacist group that they did not name, but said the FBI’s Western Massachusetts Joint Terrorism Task Force has been tracking it since March. The members of this group, prosecutors said, have discussed carrying out mass killings using explosive devices to target racial and religious minorities, including people worshiping at synagogues and mosques.
In early March, prosecutors said, a member of the group, whom law enforcement did not identify, posted that a target should be “that jew nursing home in longmeadow massachusetts.”
Longmeadow, a town of about 15,000 in central Massachusetts just south of Springfield, has a significant Jewish community, including three synagogues, a Jewish Community Center and Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy all within a mile of the assisted-living home.
A member of the white supremacist group — authorities believe it was the same person who first identified Ruth’s Home as a target — created a calendar event for April 3, prosecutors said, which called for a “jew killing day” event and listed the location as “Jew Nursery Home.”
Rathbun, who lives in nearby East Longmeadow, is accused of planting a five-gallon plastic gas canister filled with gasoline near the assisted-living home one day earlier, on April 2. Prosecutors say he lit a Christian religious pamphlet on fire and put it in the nozzle of the can to act as a fuse. But the improvised bomb did not explode, and police found it at the entrance to the facility.
They found blood on the pamphlet and the canister that they say they linked to Rathbun through DNA analysis. He was charged with two counts of attempted arson, and he faces five to 10 years in prison if convicted.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling drew a connection between Rathbun’s alleged actions and the coronavirus pandemic. “In times of national crisis, hatred based on religion often blossoms into violence,” he said in a statement.