DNA found in a half-eaten burrito helped exposed a former Wisconsin university research assistant now accused of firebombing a pro-life center last Mother's Day.
The attack on the headquarters of Wisconsin Family Action in Madison, Wisconsin, came about a week after the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion that would later overturn Roe v. Wade.
About 10 months after a Molotov cocktail was tossed inside the office and the message, "If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either," was scrawled on the building's side, Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury, 29, of Madison, was arrested in Boston on Tuesday and charged with one count of attempting to cause damage by means of fire or an explosive.
The Justice Department said he traveled from Madison to Portland, Maine, and he purchased a one-way ticket from Boston to Guatemala City, Guatemala, departing Tuesday morning.
Law enforcement arrested Roychowdhury at Boston Logan International Airport.
"According to the complaint, Mr. Roychowdhury used an incendiary device in violation of federal law in connection with his efforts to terrorize and intimidate a private organization," Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said in a statement. "I commend the commitment and professionalism of law enforcement personnel who worked exhaustively to ensure that justice is served."
"Violence is never an acceptable way for anyone to express their views or their disagreement," Assistant Director Robert R. Wells of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division said. "Today’s arrest demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to vigorously pursue those responsible for this dangerous attack and others across the country, and to hold them accountable for their criminal actions."
According to the complaint, on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, 2022, at approximately 6:06 a.m., law enforcement responded to an active fire at an office building located in Madison.
Once inside the building, police observed a mason jar under a broken window. The jar was broken, and the lid and screw top were burned black, the Justice Department said.
The police also saw a purple disposable lighter near the mason jar. On the opposite wall from the window, the police saw another mason jar with the lid on and a blue cloth tucked into the top, and the cloth was singed. The jar was about half full of a clear fluid that smelled like an accelerant, the complaint says.
Outside the building, someone spray-painted on one wall, "If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either" and, on another wall, a large "A" with a circle around it and the number "1312," according to the Justice Department. During the investigation, law enforcement collected DNA from the scene of the attack.
In March 2023, law enforcement identified Roychowdhury as a possible suspect. The affidavit said officers conducting surveillance on a protest at the Wisconsin State Capitol over the construction of an Atlanta public safety center dubbed "Cop City," observed an individual later identified as Roychowdhury.
Local police officers later observed Roychowdhury dispose of food in a public trash can, and the officers recovered the leftover food and related items, and law enforcement collected DNA from the food. The affidavit says officers recovered a paper bag filled with "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, [and] four unopened hot sauce packets."
"On March 17, 2023, law enforcement advised that a forensic biologist examined the DNA evidence recovered from the attack scene and compared it to the DNA collected from the food contents. The forensic biologist found the two samples matched and likely were the same individual," the Justice Department said.
State Rep. Barbara Dittrich, a Republican, shared screenshots to Twitter Tuesday showing that the University of Wisconsin-Madison's website listed Roychowdhury as a trainee/research assistant for the Biophysics Interdisciplinary PhD in Structural and Computational Biology and Quantitative Biosciences.
A LinkedIn profile for Roychowdhury also listed a UWMadison Doctor of Philosophy - PhD Biochemistry under education.
"This man should be charged with domestic terrorism, and the good taxpayers of this state should not be paying his salary," Dittrich tweeted.
In an update, the lawmaker said UWMadison campus "notified us after this post that Mr. Roychowdhurdy ended his affiliation with the UW System the year that this incident occurred. I am glad to hear that the taxpayers will not be on the hook paying this individual's salary until a verdict is reached."
The university's May 14, 2022, commencement announcement listed Roychowdhurdy as a doctoral candidate.
"The individual that you reference received a PhD in biochemistry from UW-Madison in May 2022. He is no longer affiliated with the university," a university spokesperson also told Fox News Digital, without providing further comment regarding the allegations against Roychowdhurdy.
If convicted, Roychowdhury faces a mandatory minimum penalty of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison, prosecutors said.