MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Miami Beach Police have arrested an elderly man accused of attempting to burn down a condominium.
Officers arrested 72-year-old Walter Stopler, Thursday, charging him with first-degree attempted arson and attempted murder.
Miami Beach Police said they received a tip that a man was planning to burn down a building. Officers later identified Stopler as the suspect and arrested him in the building’s parking garage.
Investigators said Stopler had two containers of gas with him when they arrested him, and he had already dumped several other containers of gas down a trash chute in the building.
“We learned an additional eight containers of gasoline were dumped down the 15th floor trash chute,” said Miami Beach Police spokesperson Ernesto Rodriguez. “We firmly believe we intercepted a potential crisis here in this building.”
Detectives believe Stopler was motivated by an upcoming eviction and anger towards his Jewish neighbors.
According to an arrest affidavit, Stopler told police he planned on burning down the building with “all the [expletive] Jews.”
Police also said Stopler told them he wanted to “kill all Jews.”
Investigators also said Stopler had purchased two electrical fans with the intention to fan the flames, and he had also purchased padlocks to place on the fire hoses to prevent the fire department from putting out the blaze.
Luis Diaz, a friend of the suspect for 10 years, said he grew concerned with his anti-Semitic remarks and called police.
“I actually do security cameras, and I did the security cameras at a business that he has in Doral,” he said. “He said he didn’t like Jews. He’s a Nazi.”
Diaz said he called the police Thursday morning to alert them after Stopler told him something alarming.
“A comment that he made to me, it actually bothered me,” he said, “[Stopler said] that he was gonna burn the building down with a bunch of Jews in it.”
When officers searched Stopler’s home, they said they found items with swastikas on them and books of Nazi ideology.
“This is a troubled individual, someone who we will be working closely with the Miami-Dade State’s Attorney Office to ensure a successful prosecution,” Rodriguez said.
Neighbors and residents of the building were stunned at the incident.
“I heard about what he did yesterday with the gasoline, and it’s frightening,” said resident Rafael Soler. “It’s frightening that you have a neighbor living in something like this.”
Police said Stopler could be charged with a hate crime as well.
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