A Wisconsin man was arrested at a Boston airport with a one-way ticket to Guatemala a year after fire-bombing an anti-abortion group.
Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury, 29, of Madison, was taken into custody at Boston Logan International Airport on Tuesday by the US Attorney’s Office in Madison after DNA from a half-eaten burrito connected him to the crime.
He was charged with one count of attempting to cause damage by means of fire or an explosive. He made an initial appearance in federal court in Boston on Tuesday.
If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum of five years and up to 20 years in prison.
Federal agents have been searching for him for almost a year for tossing a pair of Molotov cocktails into the Wisconsin Family Action office in Madison on May 6, 2022. One of the firebombs failed to ignite, the other set a bookcase on fire.
The message ‘if abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either’ was spray-painted on the building’s exterior.
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Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury, 29, of Madison, was taken into custody at Boston Logan International Airport on Tuesday by the US Attorney’s Office in Madison. He was charged with one count of attempting to cause damage by means of fire or an explosive
Federal agents have been searching for him for almost a year for tossing a pair of Molotov cocktails into the Wisconsin Family Action office in Madison on May 6, 2022 (pictured). One of the firebombs failed to ignite; the other set a bookcase on fire
This past January, police assigned to protect the state Capitol building in Madison reviewed surveillance video of a protest against police brutality. The footage showed several people spray-painting graffiti on Capitol grounds that resembled the graffiti at the Wisconsin Family Action office.
The footage showed two people leaving the area in a white pickup truck, which investigators tracked to Roychowdhury’s residence in Madison, according to the complaint. Police then began following him.
On March 1, investigators watched the suspect pull into a Madison park-and-ride and throw away a bag of fast food. After he left, police pulled the contents of the bag, including a partially eaten burrito wrapped in waxed paper, from the trash.
Seventeen days later, DNA found on the burrito was found to match the DNA taken from the Wisconsin Family Action office, according to the complaint.
The message: ‘If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either’ was spray-painted on the building’s exterior.
An Antifa symbol was also spray painted on the building (pictured)
According to the criminal complaint against Roychowdury, investigators pulled DNA samples from three individuals from evidence at the scene of the Wisconsin attack. But the samples didn’t match any profiles in the US Department of Justice’s DNA database.
The first swab of DNA – identified as Male 1 – was found on the jar of the cocktail, the lighter inside, and the cloth. But since it was not in the national database, it caused federal and local authorities to spend months searching for Roychowdury.
Investigators have been unable to match the other two DNA profiles from the scene to anyone, the complaint said.
The US Attorney’s Office said in a statement that Roychowdhury traveled from Madison this month to Portland, Maine. He had a one-way ticket for a flight from Boston to Guatemala City, Guatemala, that was scheduled to depart Tuesday morning when he was arrested, the office said.
Roychowdhury was a research assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but quit after the attack
The attack came about a week after a draft opinion suggesting the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion, was leaked.
The release sparked abortion rights supporters to mount protests across the country. Two Catholic churches in Colorado were vandalized in the days leading up to the Madison firebombing. And someone threw Molotov cocktails into an anti-abortion organization’s office in a suburb of Salem, Oregon, several days later.
The court officially overturned Roe v. Wade in June, putting Wisconsin’s 1849 ban on abortion back into play.
The damage was discovered on Mother’s Day morning when a passerby called police and reported seeing smoke coming from the headquarters of the anti-abortion group.
The Antifa symbol – a capital ‘A’ inside a circle – was also scrawled on the wall, as well as the numbers 1312 – a code for the letters ACAB, which stand for ‘All Cops Are Bastards.’
The damage was discovered on Mother’s Day morning when a passerby called police and reported seeing smoke coming from the headquarters of the anti-abortion group (pictured)
Julaine Appling, Wisconsin Family Action president, told the Wisconsin State Journal at the time that a window was broken, books were burned, and there was graffiti on the walls.
‘What you’re going to see here is a direct threat against us,’ Appling told the paper at the time. ‘Imagine if somebody had been in the office when this happened. They would have been hurt.’
As time went on, Appling offered a $5,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest. She accused Democratic Governor Tony Evers and Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes of being more interested in empathizing with abortion rights activists than bringing any suspects to justice.
Appling had no comment Tuesday on Roychowdhury’s arrest.
‘I’m very proud of the tireless and determined efforts the combined federal, state and local team put in to identify and arrest this individual,’ said William McCrary, the special agent in charge of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives’ St. Paul Field Division, which handles crimes in Wisconsin. ‘It is very satisfying to me to see that this alleged perpetrator has been placed in custody.’