A homeless man in Brooklyn faces 20 years in prison for allegedly setting fire to an unmarked police car last week.
Federal prosecutors believe Michael Rodriguez, 32, was caught on surveillance footage at around 4:30 a.m. last Tuesday methodically setting fire to the sedan parked outside of 259 Devoe Street, near the corner of Olive Street in Williamsburg.
The car was NYPD-owned and assigned to a captain in the department, who had parked the car on the residential street for the night — near where a tipster said Rodriguez was known to sleep — and placed a placard in its front window, federal prosecutors said in a criminal complaint.
“The defendant’s actions have no place in civil society, and this Office will vigorously prosecute him and others who commit such acts of violence in our community,” said United States Attorney Richard Donoghue in a statement.
The security camera footage allegedly shows Rodriguez pouring an unknown liquid on the windshield of the vehicle before placing cardboard over the liquid and lighting it on fire with a lighter.
Rodriguez is then accused of moving to the back passenger side of the vehicle and torching a pile of garbage he placed near the back wheel.
He then allegedly stayed at the scene until the vehicle was fully engulfed in flames, using a phone to take video or photos of the car, prosecutors said.
The police placard was the only identifiable aspect of the vehicle tying the car to the NYPD, according to its description in the criminal complaint, but prosecutors believe Rodriguez knew the vehicle was a cop car when he started the fire.
Prosecutors said a witness had identified Rodriguez as the man who had been sleeping in the area for about two weeks. And the complaint said Rodriguez “strongly resembles” the man caught on camera.
When investigators visited the area where they were told Rodriguez normally sleeps Thursday, they found two lighters, a cell phone and a newspaper article about the arson. The investigators then tracked down Rodriguez sleeping several blocks away and placed him under arrest, according to the complaint.
“Beyond the dangerous torching of an NYPD vehicle, these allegations represent an attack on the peace and good order that all New Yorkers deserve,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a statement.
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