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Feds arrest man in firebombing of an anti-abortion group using DNA from a partly eaten burrito

Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury was charged with the attack on a Wisconsin Family Action office with the help of DNA evidence found in a discarded fast food bag, authorities said.

WASHINGTON — Federal authorities Tuesday arrested a man they say firebombed an anti-abortion group after the FBI used DNA it pulled from a partly eaten burrito to connect him to the Mason jar used in the attack.

Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury was arrested Tuesday in Boston and charged in connection with the firebombing of the office of Wisconsin Family Action in Madison on May 8.

“If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either," someone had written on the wall of the building in graffiti during the attack, which took place just days after Politico broke the news that the Supreme Court had the votes to overturn Roe v. Wade.

An arson at the Wisconsin
Family Action executive office in Madison.
The Wisconsin Family Action executive office in Madison after the fire.FBI

Authorities were able to pull DNA off of a Mason jar they found inside, as well as from the window glass and on a lighter found at the scene, a Dane County deputy who serves on a FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force wrote in an affidavit.

There were no hits on the DNA in a national database. But Wisconsin State Capitol Police monitoring a protest on Jan. 21 saw multiple people spray-painting in a "cursive-style writing" that had "visual similarities" to the graffiti outside the Wisconsin Family Action office, the affidavit stated.

The graffiti at Wisconsin Family Action.
The graffiti at Wisconsin Family Action.FBI

Using security video, they identified the owner of a white pickup truck that was seen leaving a parking garage near where the protesters had been spray-painting. The truck belonged to a person who lived at Roychowdhury's address.

Early this month, law enforcement officers watched Roychowdhury toss a brown fast-food bag on top of a trash bin in a parking lot. Authorities recovered the bag, which contained "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," according to the affidavit.

The evidence was sent to a laboratory of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and law enforcement officials "swabbed the burrito for DNA and sent the swab to the ATF lab." The results came back March 17: The DNA from the Wisconsin Family Action crime scene matched the DNA from the partly eaten burrito.

Roychowdhury was arrested at Boston Logan International Airport on Tuesday; authorities said he had purchased a one-way ticket to Guatemala City. A detention hearing was scheduled at a federal court in Boston on Tuesday afternoon, and court records indicate that the government moved for his detention. Another hearing is set for Thursday.

At a recent Senate hearing, Republican senators repeatedly asked Attorney General Merrick Garland why there had been no charges yet in recent firebomb attacks at anti-abortion facilities, suggesting that the Justice Department was prioritizing investigating other crimes. Garland contended that the attacks happened under the cover of night and that the Justice Department continued to look for the assailants.

In January, two people were indicted and accused of spray-painting threats on buildings run by anti-abortion groups in Florida, including an Archdiocese of Miami Office Respect Life facility in Hollywood.