WASHINGTON — Federal authorities on Tuesday arrested a man they say firebombed an anti-abortion group after the FBI used DNA they pulled from a partially-eaten burrito to connect him to the mason jar used in the attack.
Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury was arrested in Boston on Tuesday and charged in connection with the firebombing of the office of the group Wisconsin Family Action in Madison, Wisconsin, on May 8, 2022.
“If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either,” someone had written on the wall of the building in graffiti during the attack, which took place just days after Politico broke the news that the Supreme Court had the votes to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Authorities were able to pull DNA off of a mason jar they found inside, as well as from the window glass and on a lighter found at the scene, according to an affidavit written by a Dane County deputy who serves on a FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.
There were no hits on the DNA in a national database. But Wisconsin State Capitol Police monitoring a protest on Jan. 21, 2023, saw multiple individuals spray painting in a “cursive-style writing” that had “visual similarities” to the graffiti found outside the Wisconsin Family Action office, the affidavit stated.
Using surveillance footage, they identified the owner of a white pickup truck that was seen leaving a parking garage near where the protesters had been spray painting. The truck belonged to an individual who lived at the same address as Roychowdhury.
In early March, law enforcement watched Roychowdhury toss a brown fast food bag on top of a trash bin in a parking lot. Law enforcement recovered the bag, which contained “a quarter portion of a partially eaten burrito wrapped in waxed paper, a soiled napkin, a crumpled napkin, a stack of napkins, the wrapper of the burrito, a crumpled food wrapper, four unopened hot sauce packets,” according to the affidavit.
The evidence was sent to an ATF laboratory and law enforcement “swabbed the burrito for DNA and sent the swab to the ATF lab.” The results came back on March 17: The DNA from the Wisconsin Family Action crime scene matched the DNA from the partially-eaten burrito.
Roychowdhury was arrested at Boston Logan International Airport Tuesday; authorities said he’d purchased a one-way ticket to Guatemala City. He had a detention hearing scheduled at a federal court in Boston on Tuesday afternoon and court records indicate that the government moved for his detention. Another hearing is set for Thursday.
At a recent Senate hearing, Attorney General Merrick Garland was asked repeatedly by Republican senators about why there were not yet charges in recent firebomb attacks at anti-abortion facilities, suggesting that DOJ was prioritizing investigating other crimes. Garland contended that the attacks happened under the cover of night and that the Justice Department was continuing to look for the assailants.
In January, two individuals were indicted for spray painting threats on buildings run by anti-abortion in Florida, including an Archdiocese of Miami Office Respect Life facility in Hollywood, Florida.
Ginger Gibson contributed.