Authorities are hunting suspects in the launch of a ignited explosive from a pickup truck near a synagogue.
The incident happened around 9:30 p.m. Saturday in Lakewood, New Jersey, a city about 37 miles east of Trenton near the Jersey shore. Police initially responded to reports of an explosion and smoke on Squankum Road, near Shafto Road, according to WABC News.
A resident told police that he saw two trucks, one darker and one lighter, driving slowly before he heard the explosion. Footage taken from the safety of his home confirmed this, showing two trucks turning a corner and moving slowly along a road in tandem, almost appearing to stop at one point before accelerating and out of frame. Shortly after, an explosion can be seen in a wooded area just off the street, followed by a plume of smoke.
Two people can also be seen crossing the street behind the trucks, and police confirmed they were between 50 and 100 feet away when the explosion occurred. Neither they nor anyone else in the neighborhood were injured by the blast.
Police are now conducting an investigation in conjunction with Lakewood Civilian Safety Watch. No firm evidence has been found to suggest that the bias was motivated, but nevertheless the fact that it occurred in an Orthodox Jewish community near a neighborhood synagogue has raised alarm bells about possible anti-Semitism.
“When something like that is thrown and it makes a very loud noise or a very strong flash, it really throws a lot of people off guard,” Lakewood Councilor Meir Lichtenstein told WABC News. “Kids were scared, people were scared, it’s hard to tell if someone was playing with the Memorial Day fireworks or if they were actually targeting the Orthodox community, but it certainly throws people off.”
The case is being supervised by Detective Kevin Donnelly with the Lakewood Police Department. People with information relevant to the case are urged to call 732-363-0200, ext. 5346.
news week has reached out to the Lakewood Police Department via email for comment.
Estimates from 2018 put Lakewood’s Jewish population at around 90,000, or about two-thirds of the residents. As such, Lakewood was among numerous communities across the country that saw an increase in police presence in response to online neo-Nazi threats of a “National Hate Day” in February, despite the lack of concrete threats to the community.