The Huyen Trang Buddhist Meditation Center in New Caney, Texas, north of Huston, was firebombed on 5 November, according to a statement from the local authorities. Surveillance footage from the temple, released on Tuesday, shows a man wearing a hat, gloves, and a backpack approaching the temple at around 9:45 p.m. The individual carried a container of gasoline, ignited the weapon on the temple’s front porch, and tossed it through an open window. He quickly fled as flames engulfed the meditation center.
Susan Nguyen, a Vietnamese Buddhist nun who has overseen the temple for the past five years, was awakened by the fire. She assisted others in extinguishing the flames and has temporarily vacated the temple, which traditionally welcomes both Buddhist and non-Buddhist visitors for prayer and meditation.
When interviewed, Nguyen expressed her apprehension: “I can’t sleep because I’m scared. I don’t know why he did that.” (Chron)
Nguyen told reporters that her mission at the temple was to help educate the community about meditation and peace. She added that she was not angry, just unsure why someone would do this: “I help people. I don’t do anything wrong.” (ABC13)
During the incident, a Buddhist monk residing at the temple used a rug to extinguish the fire, while another monk wielded a fire extinguisher to suppress the flames within the temple’s worship area. No injuries were reported.
Subsequently, deputies from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office were called to the scene, followed by the arrival of fire marshals and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), who initiated an arson investigation. Law enforcement agencies have yet to identify a suspect.
According to the assistant fire marshal at the Montgomery County Fire Marshal’s office, Kevin Bates, the evidence was still under analysis to establish a connection between the individual and the Molotov cocktail.
In response to the incident, the sheriff’s and fire marshal’s offices jointly released surveillance footage of the assailant approaching the temple. Sheriff Rand Henderson issued a statement asserting the community’s unity against any threat to peace and harmony, and emphasizing their commitment to safeguarding the religious freedoms and safety of citizens. They pledged to vigorously pursue justice against anyone who jeopardized the religious freedom of those peacefully practicing. The public was encouraged to remain patient and cooperative as the investigation unfolded, and to provide any information to assist the authorities.
In his statement, Henderson noted: “Our primary concern is the safety and well-being of our citizens, and we assure you that every effort is being made to bring clarity to this situation. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to support one another, embrace our diversity and stand together against any form of hatred or discrimination.” (Chron)
During an interview, Bates noted that it was uncertain whether the attack would be classified as a hate crime, stating: “We’re not ruling anything out, but we’re investigating it as an arson. Then we’ll let the information dictate the direction of the investigation as we get it.” (Chron)
Nguyen noted a prior fire incident in a mobile home on the temple property in November 2022, expressing concern that it might be connected to the recent fire.
Bates confirmed that the fire marshal’s office had investigated the blaze behind the temple last year, but the cause of the fire remained undetermined due to insufficient evidence and information. A nun at the temple expressed fear that both fires might be connected to a recent increase in crimes against Buddhist temples around the US.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the investigation to determine whether federal laws were broken. The suspect is described as a white or light-skinned male, and was seen in surveillance video wearing a dark baseball cap, black boots, and carrying a backpack.
Man throws Molotov cocktail at Buddhist temple while monk sleeps inside in Montgomery County (Click2Houston)
FBI asking for your help finding suspect who threw Molotov cocktail at Buddhist temple with monk sleeping inside (Click2Houston)
Buddhist temple firebombed by man seen throwing Molotov cocktail, video shows (ABC13)
Caught on camera | Suspect throws Molotov cocktail into Buddhist temple in Montgomery County (KHOU11)
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