New Square man attacked, suffers serious body burns
Steve Lieberman • Journal News
NEW SQUARE — A Truman Avenue man suffered severe body bruns early this morning when he fought off a village resident armed with a incendiary device during a fight over a simmering religious controversy, Ramapo police said.
Ramapo police said they later arrested 18-year-old Shaul Spitzer of Adams Lane on felony charges. He had serious burns to his hands and arms and has been hospitalized, police said.
The victim, 43, whose name is being withheld by the Journal-News, suffered burns to 50 percent of his body and remains hospitalized.
Police charged Spitzer with felony counts of first-degree attempted arson and first-degree assault, police said.
Other charges are possible, including attempted murder or possibly murder if the victim dies at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, police said.
Police said they are aware that the Truman Avenue family had been targeted before with violence and protests by religious zealots because the victim prayed outside the community's main synagogue used by the Skver Hasidic grand rabbi, the worldwide community's dynastic leader.
Police investigators said today that they have no evidence of any connection between today's attack at 4:12 a.m. and past incidents gainst the family and other dissidents in the community. The vacant upper floor of a Bush Lane house caught fire recently where another dissident family lived.
"I know there is a history there and we're aware of problems within the community," Ramapo Police Detective Lt. Mark Emma said today. "We have no evidence there is a connection. We're still investigating."
The Truman Avenue family installed surveillance cameras because of previous incidents at the house.
Just after 4 a.m. today, a young man living in the Truman Avenue house woke up his father after hearing people out on the porch, police said. Four people were in the house.
The family members began watching a security camera monitor when they saw a man later identified as Spitzer throw something onto their rear deck, Emma said.
Emma said the item turned out to be a rag soaked in flammable liquid.
The father and a son went outside, where the father confronted Spitzer, Emma said.
"Somehow — we're not sure yet — the victim's clothes caught on fire," Emma said. "He has severe burns to his face, arms, and chest."
The victim's son rolled his father on the ground to put out the flames, Emma said.
"The suspect fled the scene, but we were able to track him down" at 8:30 a.m., Emma said.
Rockland Paramedics Inc. and police found the victim sitting on the front steps of his house.
The suspect was taken to Nyack Hospital for the burns and later transferred to Cornell Medical Center in New York City, Emma said.
Ramapo police were later assisted by the Rockland Sheriff's Office Bureau of Criminal Investigation fie unit and the Rockland County Computer Crimes Unit.
The fight is over a group of dissidents who reject the leadership of the Squarer Rebbe. The dissidents pray at a nursing home, not at the central synagogue of the village, which is controlled by the rebbe.
[Hat Tip: Burich.]