The man who admitted to painting Nazi symbols and setting a fire at Congregation Shaarey Tefilla in Carmel was sentenced May 20 to three years in prison.
Nolan Brewer, 21, of Eminence, Ind., pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime for the July 28, 2018, incident. His wife, a minor, was also arrested for her role.
During the investigation, Brewer told the FBI that he targeted the synagogue – which was more than 50 miles away from his home – because it was “full of ethnic Jews.” Surveillance footage showed Brewer and his wife went to Walmart the day before the attack to buy red and black spray paint, Gatorade bottles and other items used to deface a dumpster enclosure and make homemade explosives.
Investigators said Brewer and his wife parked more than a mile away from the synagogue to avoid detection. They walked to the synagogue, carrying their supplies in a backpack and by hand. Their original plan was to break into the synagogue and set it on fire, but a witness said they were spooked by the surveillance system and decided not to enter the building.
When the FBI arrested Brewer two weeks after the incident, he still had supplies for the attack in the trunk of his car. A friend of Brewer and his wife told investigators the couple said they wanted to burn down the rabbi’s house and were searching for other targets.
During an interview with the FBI, Brewer said his motivation for the attack was to generate “news headlines” and “spark more radicalism.” Some of Brewer’s co-workers testified that he openly supported Nazism at work and bragged about the attack after it happened.
After reviewing the evidence, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt sentenced Brewer and imposed a $1,000 fine. She also ordered him to pay the synagogue $700 for damage.
“Our nation was founded on the right of all people to practice their faith free of threats and violence,” U.S. Attorney Josh J. Minkler stated in a press release. “Sadly, over the past couple of years, our country has seen an increase in hate crimes targeting houses of worship, particularly against those of the Jewish faith. This case was one of them. The sentence handed down yesterday sends a clear message that society cannot, and will not, tolerate those who terrorize others for their religious beliefs.”
The FBI and Carmel Police Dept. investigated the case.