Police have released surveillance video that they say shows the man who threw a Molotov cocktail at a group on a West 37th Street sidewalk in Hell's Kitchen on Friday afternoon. The firebomb exploded in front of a food-cart storage business between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, near the owner of the store as well as two yeshiva students, but didn't injure anyone. Cops say the attacker ran south down Ninth Avenue.
The NYPD describes the suspect as 5-foot-9, about 215 pounds, and wearing a backpack.
The students, visiting from Israel and studying in Brooklyn, initially believed they had been targeted because they are Orthodox Jews, and that narrative drew widespread media attention in New York and Israel. Police later said their investigation suggests a food-cart shop manager, who is Muslim, was the intended victim, and that he had a prior dispute with the suspect.
On Monday afternoon, Anti-Defamation League regional director Evan Bernstein issued a statement saying, "We are quite concerned by reports of an unprovoked attack directed against two rabbinical students who were visiting New York City from Israel. The possibility that these young men may have been singled out for an anti-Semitic attack because of their visibility as religious Jews is deeply troubling."
Asked what the organization thinks of the new working theory of the case, a spokesperson wrote, "We are still awaiting the outcome of the investigation."
NYPD spokesman Sgt. Lee Jones said the Hate Crimes Task Force was notified and the possibility of anti-Semitic bias as a motivation has not been entirely ruled out. "We'll definitely be pursuing that angle," he said.