Nursing homes around the country are struggling as they house one of the most vulnerable groups when it comes to COVID-19. Leave it to a potential white supremacist to only add to that struggle.
The New York Times reports that 36-year-old John Michael Rathbun was charged with two counts of attempted arson in federal court. On April 2, Rathbun allegedly tried to ignite a five-gallon gas canister outside of Ruth’s House, a nursing home in Longmeadow, Mass. Bloodstains on the gas canister were found to match Rathbun’s DNA according to federal prosecutors. Ruth’s House is located in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood that is home to multiple temples, a Jewish community center and a Jewish private school.
From The New York Times:
Ruth’s House had been targeted for attack on two social media platforms operated by an unnamed white supremacist group, according to a criminal complaint. One user on March 4 had discussed a mass killing at “that jew nursing home in Longmeadow Massachusetts,” and another had created a calendar listing for April 3 called “jew killing day.”
While it is not yet certain if Rathbun had ties to any of these white supremacist websites, the FBI has seized his computer and is currently investigating. On Wednesday, Rathbun made a video appearance in federal court and has yet to enter a plea. He was released to his home by federal magistrate judge Katherine A. Robinson. Prosecutors objected to the decision which they found “appears to have been greatly influenced by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
This attempted attack is only the latest in hate crimes meant to capitalize on the pandemic. Last month, two white nationalists staged a similarly failed attempt to blow up a Kansas city hospital currently dealing with the epidemic. Reports also emerged of white supremacists attempting to weaponize the coronavirus.