NY man accused of throwing Molotov cocktail at police officers federally charged

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A man who threw a Molotov cocktail and bleach at New York City police officers is facing a federal attempted arson charge, the Justice Department said Monday. 

Lionel Virgile, 44, a Brooklyn resident, appeared in federal court and was ordered detained pending trial. The charge is in connection with the alleged hurling of a Molotov cocktail at a New York Police Department patrol car while officers were inside Saturday morning.

The attack occurred minutes after Virgile allegedly doused another officer with a cup of bleach in the face during a traffic stop, authorities said. That incident was captured on police body-camera footage. 

“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 Mark Lesko, the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Two NYPD officers initially stopped Virgile driving a 2000 Lincoln Town Car for running a red light. When they approached the car, he allegedly threw the bleach at one officer, causing him to suffer burns around his eyes, and drove off, a federal complaint said.

The officer was taken to a hospital and treated for chemical burns and released.  

Ten minutes later, Virgile was pulled over by other officers and allegedly threw the lit Molotov cocktail. The device hit the windshield of the patrol car and shattered on a sidewalk. No one was hit, authorities said. 

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Virgile was arrested at the scene. During a search of his car, officers discovered five more Molotov cocktails inside. He allegedly admitted to purchasing materials to make the devices with the intention of throwing them at police officers. He also allegedly confessed to throwing the bleach at the other officer. 

“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,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a statement. 

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