A Brooklyn Heights man arrested on charges of making pipe bombs has also confessed to scrawling swastikas and hate messages in the neighborhood, according to police, and they are trying to figure out if the suspect planned to target synagogues or other sites with the arsenal found in his apartment, sources said.
Investigators said Ivaylo Ivanov, 37, at first told them he needed the weapons – eight pipe bombs, including one stuffed in a foam football, handguns, a rifle, a shotgun, two silencers, a crossbow, gunpowder and machines to help build the bombs – for protection. He also told police he planned to use the bombs for fishing.
But police also believe he is responsible for a spate of hate graffiti in the neighborhood on Sept. 24, so they want to ensure Ivanov didn’t intend to use the weapons in an anti-Semitic campaign. “We want to make certain there were no plans to use them to attack a synagogue,” a high-ranking police official said Monday night.
Ivanov was arrested Sunday after he called 911 and told police someone had shot him in the finger, but he told police later he had accidentally shot himself. Police who responded to his apartment said they found the weapons cache. Investigators are examining Ivanov’s computer.
Late Sunday, after more than 12 hours in custody on weapons charges, Ivanov told detectives he spray-painted swastikas or hate messages at two synagogues and four other buildings, on nine cars and on sidewalks.
The vandalism, mostly swastikas, included one four-foot-high symbol of hate inside an apartment building on Columbia Place, police said. The suspect also allegedly wrote “Kill all Jews” and “America hates Jews” on fliers left on two cars.
Ivanov appeared at his arraignment Monday still dressed in pajama bottoms, his left hand and forearm bandaged. He was charged with 10 counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and two counts of not having a weapons permit. Regarding the graffiti, he also was charged with five counts of second-degree aggravated harassment, including two counts as a hate crime, and four counts of fourth-degree criminal mischief, including two counts as a hate crime.
Ivanov is a Bulgarian national who has a green card, said Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Kerry J. Pukhaber.
Judge John Wilson ordered Ivanov held on $300,000 bond or $150,000 cash bail. Wilson ordered him to surrender his passport if he makes bail.
Ivanov’s lawyer, Adrian Lesher, said Ivanov is a linguist and is himself Jewish. (Emphasis added)
“The defendant basically led police to the apartment in a situation that was almost calculated,” Lesher said at the arraignment. “It makes it less likely that he is a threat. He is an educated person.”
Ivanov, as it turns out, was the prime suspect in the September spate of graffiti. Police interviewed him several times, obtained a handwriting sample and even visited his apartment, an official said.
But the sample was inconclusive and nothing in his apartment suggested Ivanov was collecting and assembling weapons and explosives, the official said. He has a 2003 conviction for petty larceny.
Early Sunday, Ivanov called 911 and said an attacker had shot him in the left index finger. Officers who responded to Ivanov’s Remsen Street apartment found the bullet lodged in a chair, then got a search warrant, finding the guns and crossbow on his mattress and the pipe bombs, complete with caps and fuses and believed to be fully functional, in a closet.
Ivanov lives in the apartment with Michael Clatts, an associate professor at Columbia University who specializes in studying the spread of infectious diseases.
Police said there is no evidence to suggest Ivanov is connected to a terrorist group or planned to carry out an attack and nothing found thus far suggests Clatts was involved with the weapons or graffiti, police said.
Monday, apprehension was replaced in some quarters by relief. Rabbi Aaron Raskin, whose synagogue, Congregation B’nai Avraham, was among those defaced, said he expected the suspect would be a teenager or someone with a mental illness – not a grown man with no documented psychiatric problems.
“Thank God the perpetrator was caught and justice will be served,” he said. “It is a relief, but on the other hand it is a disappointment knowing that this person was very dangerous.”
On Columbia Place, meanwhile, a resident of the building that had been defaced said building management had beefed up security.
Still, said Daya Kapupara, 28, a student, it was unnerving to learn the suspect lived so close – and was allegedly making pipe bombs.
“We had no idea who it could be,” Kapupara said. “This is really surprising.”
Pervaiz Shallwani contributed to this story.
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