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'Cruel Act of Violence' Against LGBTQ Bar in NYC

NYPD: Suspect walked into Brooklyn's Rash Bar, set it ablaze, then fled; 2 injured
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2022 8:06 AM CDT

A popular LGBTQ bar in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood is closed for the indefinite future after what the NYPD says was an act of arson over the weekend, but the owners promise to reopen as soon as they can. "It's so hard to believe and process," Rash Bar co-owner Jake Sillen tells NBC News. "It's more confusing than anything." Sillen tells the New York Daily News that around 9:30pm Sunday a man wearing all black and a blue surgical mask entered the bar and started pouring a clear liquid onto the ground. A bouncer—one of three people reportedly inside the bar at the time, including a DJ and bartender—says the man claimed to be cleaning the floor, but he then lit on fire what the NYPD says was a flammable liquid, causing a mini-explosion.

The man then fled through the flames, according to the bouncer's account to Sillen. The entire incident was caught on surveillance video, per News 12, which notes that a 23-year-old woman and 25-year-old woman were taken to a nearby hospital suffering from burns. The bar's owners say the injured are in stable condition. "I was in complete shock," another co-owner, Claire Bendiner, tells the news outlet. "I saw people rush out ... there were enormous flames up to the top of the ceiling." The bar's windows are now boarded up, and authorities and witnesses say that people who lived in the apartments above the bar also had to be moved out of the building.

"We still don't know what to make of this cruel act of violence," the bar's owners wrote in a GoFundMe that had raised nearly $60,000 as of Thursday morning. "In only five short months we were privileged to become home to such a talented and vital community of artists. It breaks our hearts that anyone would seek to threaten that for any reason." The money raised through the GoFundMe will help renovate the space and support staff while they're out of work, the page notes. Police, who still haven't offered a motive, describe the suspect as being between 20 and 30 years old, standing 5 foot 9 inches and weighing about 180 pounds. (More LGBTQ stories.)

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