(JTA) – Police have arrested a man who allegedly espoused conspiracy theories about Jews in connection with a March attack on a Chabad center in Cape Coral, Florida.
Maron Mark Raymon was arrested April 20 and has been charged with attempted burglary and criminal mischief to a place of worship, a third-degree felony in Florida. The arrest came more than a month after Raymon allegedly threw bricks at the front door of Chabad of Cape Coral as Shabbat services were wrapping up. Unable to break the glass, he allegedly broke a lock on the front door, before damaging the rabbi’s car and destroying a large wooden menorah on the outside of the Chabad center, housed in a shopping center along a main thoroughfare in central Cape Coral.
Rabbi Yossi Labkowski, head of the Chabad center, said the assailant fled when two people from the synagogue who had seen the incident approached him.
“Thank God we caught the individual, and I guess we don’t have to be worried anymore about this guy,” Labkowski told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Labkowski has lived in Cape Coral, a city of about 200,000 on Florida’s west coast, for 19 years and said he had never before experienced any antisemitism in his city. “Having this incident happen here, it was really out of the norm,” he said.
Local police say they have not yet been able to determine if Raymon has any links to extremist groups. But the arrest report, obtained by JTA, indicates that Raymon had been caught trespassing at a nearby church days after the Chabad incident. He then shared with law enforcement his belief that Jews were conspiring with the government “to keep medical marijuana down.”
In a statement, the Anti-Defamation League’s Florida chapter characterized the attack as an antisemitic incident.
Labkowski, who appeared at a press conference Friday alongside the local police chief and others, said the rarity of antisemitic incidents in the area made it easier to identify the suspect. “As soon as you hear somebody speaking against Jews in the area, you try to connect the dots,” he said.
“This case was priority No. 1,” chief of police Anthony Sizemore said at the press conference.
“We realize this was a horrific act,” he said. “It shook the confidence in the core of our community.”
The Chabad-Lubavitch center, one of two synagogues in Cape Coral alongside several others in nearby Fort Meyers, has several hundred members, Labkowski said. Local police provided it with an updated security camera system ahead of Passover after the attack.
The arrest adds to a growing list of arrests connected to antisemitic activity in the United States. In the last week a Massachusetts woman was arrested for distributing swastikas in front of the home of a Jewish lawyer, and three neo-Nazis were arrested after making online death threats against a Florida sheriff who vowed to take on antisemitism in his county.
The incident in Cape Coral followed a different incident at another Florida Chabad center, in the Orlando area, where neo-Nazis who are active in the area gathered to intimidate attendees in February. There, the rabbi said supporters soon outnumbered the neo-Nazis.
Debbie Sanford, director of the local Jewish federation serving Cape Coral, praised law enforcement for its handling of the incident. She said that, in general, police have been responsive and attentive to the needs of Jewish security.
“We have a very wonderful relationship with our local law enforcement,” she said. “We have full faith in them to keep our Jewish community safe.”
Labkowski said the community was “quite relieved” that the man had been caught. He added, “We didn’t believe it would happen in such a city.”
In the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area, residents are still recovering from the effects of a devastating hurricane last fall. The Jewish federation has given aid to the broader community and has not seen requests for help diminish at all in the past six months, according to Sanford. She hopes that by providing aid, they can show non-Jewish locals that Jews are there to support them.
“The federation concentrates on serving the community, and the entire community. It’s what our Jewish values teach us to do,” she said. “So the more we’re out there helping, the more I think we are preventing antisemitism.”