A Wisconsin man was charged Tuesday with fire-bombing the headquarters of an anti-abortion group last May after federal investigators pieced together a forensic trail of evidence that ended with a partially eaten burrito.
DNA tests, handwriting analysis, social media posts, and surveillance video led authorities to Hridindu Roychowdhury, 29, who was arrested at Boston’s Logan Airport as he was about to board a flight to Guatemala.
A criminal complaint says he is the person who threw Molotov cocktails into the Madison offices of Wisconsin Family Action and spray-painted “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either” on the outside wall.
The culprit—who struck after a draft of the Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade was leaked—was sloppy, and left behind plenty of evidence.
One man’s DNA was found on swabs of the top and bottom of the office’s glass window, the outside of the jar used in the firebombing, a lighter, and a blue cloth that was tucked into one of the Molotov cocktails.
The DNA was run through law enforcement databases but didn’t match any existing profiles, and the hunt for the assailant ran cold. But in January, according to the complaint, a demonstration at the Wisconsin State Capitol to protest the shooting of an activist at Cop City in Atlanta gave authorities the break they needed.
Surveillance video captured a man spray-painting the words “We will get revenge” in the same cursive as the graffiti at Wisconsin Family Action. Investigators then reviewed security footage from a nearby parking lot and spotted the suspect and a companion walking into the garage and driving out in a white Tacoma truck.
The license plate on the truck was traced to a home in Madison. The feds then determined that an Instagram account that advertised the protest at the Capitol was tied to Roychowdhury, who lives at the same address as the Tacoma owner.
It appears investigators began surveilling Roychowdhury, and on March 1 they followed him to a park-and-ride lot in Madison and watched him toss a fast-food bag on a pile of trash.
“Law enforcement retrieved the bag from the trash,” the complaint states. “The contents of the bag included a quarter portion of a partially eaten burrito wrapped in waxed paper, a soiled napkin, a crumpled napkin, a stack of napkins, the wrapper of the burrito, a crumpled food wrapper, four unopened hot sauce packets, and the brown paper bag itself.”
All of that went to the lab for analysis and on March 17 a forensic biologist matched the DNA to the samples from the firebombing scene, prosecutors said.
Roychowdhury, who was a research assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison until last year, is charged with one count of attempting to cause damage by means of fire or an explosive. His attorney declined to speak to the Associated Press after an initial hearing.
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