AP: Suspect accused of throwing Molotov cocktail at cops faces federal charges

April 21, 2021 Editorial Staff
A NYPD car. Photo: Julio Cortez/AP File
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Brooklyn Eagle Staff and Associated Press

Cops: More incendiary devices found in his car

A man who allegedly threw bleach, then a Molotov cocktail, at police officers in a well-publicized episode during the weekend could be looking at up to 20 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn.

Leonard Virgile, 44, a former Bridgeport, Connecticut, resident who was reportedly living in his car in Brooklyn, was charged with attempted arson. 

TV news reports say family members described Virgile as suffering from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and refusing to take his medications, and he was recently brought to a hospital and released.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese

Virgile was arrested on Saturday and made his first appearance on Monday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy in Brooklyn Federal Court. He was ordered held without bail.

On the morning of April 17, 2021, NYPD officers in a marked vehicle saw Virgile drive his Lincoln Town Car through a red light at the intersection of Clarendon Road and East 45th Street in East Flatbush, according to court papers.

When the officers approached Virgile’s car, he opened the driver’s-side door and allegedly threw a cup containing a chemical substance in one of the NYPD officer’s eyes that was later determined to be bleach. The officer sustained chemical burns on his face and has since been discharged from the hospital.

Virgile then fled in his Lincoln Town car and was pursued by officers in another NYPD vehicle. Approximately 10 minutes later, Virgile pulled over, exited his Lincoln Town Car, and allegedly threw a lit Molotov cocktail at the NYPD vehicle pursuing him.

Leonard Virgile in his car after being stopped by police. Courtesy of NYPD video

The Molotov cocktail, which consisted of a glass bottle containing gasoline and a cloth wick, struck the windshield of the police vehicle and shattered on the sidewalk. The defendant subsequently crashed into a parked car on Snyder Avenue and was apprehended by police.–>

Five additional Molotov cocktails and a red jerry can were found in Virgile’s Lincoln Town Car, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“As alleged, the defendant deliberately sought to severely injure an NYPD police officer by throwing bleach at his eyes and to ignite an NYPD vehicle with officers inside by hurling a lit Molotov cocktail at it,” said Acting United States Attorney Mark Lesko, who also thanked the Brooklyn County District Attorney’s Office for their assistance with the investigation.

“Attacks on uniformed police officers, as alleged in this federal complaint, are not only crimes against our sworn public servants but are unacceptable assaults on the fabric of society,” added NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea.

Defense attorney Michelle Gelernt of the Federal Defender’s Office said she was not seeking bail for Virgile so there was no need for the prosecutor to detail his alleged offenses.

“The only point is to poison any potential jury pool,” Gelernt alleged.

Virgile is due back in court on May 3.

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