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Broken bottles found in front of synagogue

Published: Thursday, Nov. 12 2009 1:09 a.m. MST

Investigators look over the remains of a bottle that was thrown near Congregation Kol Ami synagogue in Salt Lake City.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

A pair of broken bottles designed to look like Molotov cocktails were discovered Wednesday on the street in front of the Congregation Kol Ami synagogue in Salt Lake City.

Despite the broken glass from the bottles, there was no evidence of a fire, and officials do not believe the devices could have burned at all.

"It absolutely was not a flammable liquid," said Salt Lake Police Lt. Craig Gleason.

Even the director of the synagogue, 2425 Heritage Way, was not extremely concerned. "Whoever did it did such a poor job, we're not overly alarmed," said Kol Ami director Tamar Meir, while quickly adding, "But the message is clear."

Though the incident wasn't a potentially dangerous one, investigators Wednesday were still gathering evidence to determine the intent behind the vandalism.

"If it was a block south, we wouldn't be here," Gleason said. But the fact that it happened near each of the entrances to the synagogue's parking lot made the incident more serious.

Meir was thankful to the Salt Lake police and fire departments for taking the matter seriously.

"Unfortunately, this is kind of a way of life, it happens periodically," she said. "(Incidents like this) are in the back of our minds constantly, but we just go on."

The building had been the target of vandalism in the past, but nothing recently, and there had been no threats of late, Meir said. Anything that had happened recently was not connected to Wednesday's incident, she said.

Salt Lake Fire's hazmat unit and a fire investigator responded to the scene. In the shoulder of the road, near the synagogue's two driveways, were broken wine bottles that appeared to have been tossed from a moving vehicle. Each bottle had paper stuffed in the top like a wick, but neither showed signs of ever being ignited.

There was a liquid that spread in the street and against the curb, but none of it was close to hitting the synagogue. Police were immediately suspicious of whether it was a true Molotov cocktail, because it did not smell like any flammable materials, and the liquid did not dissipate as flammable liquids normally do.

A fire investigator brought his arson K9 to the scene, but the dog did not pick up on any scents from accelerants either, Gleason said. Investigators collected the broken pieces of bottle and took them to be analyzed both for identifying the mystery liquid, which some investigators initially thought was oil-based, and to look for fingerprints on the bottle.

A man taking a morning walk called police first about 7:30 a.m. after spotting the wicks in the bottles. There were no witnesses to the actual incident, and police weren't sure what time the bottles were thrown, Gleason said.

Anyone with information can call police at 801-799-INFO (4636).

e-mail: preavy@desnews.com

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