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Suspect in Congregation Beth Israel arson now facing federal charges

A newly unsealed federal complaint includes photographs from the 18-year-old's journal entries.

AUSTIN, Texas — An 18-year-old man arrested in the Oct. 31 arson at Congregation Beth Israel is now facing federal charges, and a newly unsealed criminal complaint obtained Monday includes racist and anti-Semitic entries from his personal journal.

Franklin Barrett Sechriest, a member of the Texas State Guard and student at Texas State University in San Marcos, wrote "scout a target" on Oct. 31, according to an affidavit filed by the FBI. That evening, his Jeep SUV was seen in the parking lot of the synagogue shortly before the fire is seen on security video, the affidavit said.

In the following days, he wrote in his journal "I set a synagogue on fire" and that he would become worried when authorities announced that they were hopeful they would find a suspect, according to excerpts in the affidavit.

RELATED: Texas State student arrested in connection with Austin synagogue arson case

Credit: Austin Fire Department

His entry those days also included mundane tasks, including laundry, meditating and using the dating app Tinder.

FBI agents made no mention in the affidavit that they believe Sechriest is part of a larger network that has recently targeted Austin in a series of anti-Semitic attacks that have included hanging banners along MoPac. On Sunday, hundred participated in a Rally for Kindness at the Capitol in the aftermath of the attacks.

The affidavit said that Sechriest's Jeep and license plate were seen on security footage, providing valuable clues, and that he resembles the person seen on video just before the blaze started.

Officials then searched his home and Jeep and found what they said was other evidence linking him to the fire.

That included stickers in his car that said, "No invader is innocent" and "They hate your ancestors … They hate your culture …They hate your nation …They hate your religion … It is OK to hate them back.”

And they wrote in the affidavit that they discovered materials consistent with making Molotov cocktails, including lighters and lighter fluid.

In his home, they found the journal entry that also included an Aug. 19 notation "N----- appreciation day" the day after college orientation.

A spokesperson with the Travis County Sheriff's Office confirmed to KVUE that Sechriest was turned over to the custody of the FBI on Monday. 

Austin fire investigators also have charged him with arson in state district court in Travis County.


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