The 52-year-old New Brunswick man arrested in a window-smashing spree at Jewish businesses and institutions in Highland Park and New Brunswick is himself Jewish.
Local Jewish leaders who knew him describe Richard Green of Bayard Street as a “troubled and mentally ill” person known to staff and students on or near the Rutgers University campus.
Green was charged with numerous counts of bias intimidation and criminal mischief by Highland Park, New Brunswick, and Rutgers University police departments resulting from the incidents, which took place Nov. 27-30.
News of the shattered windows was reported nationally, where it was referred to in some publications and blogs as “Kristallnacht in New Jersey.”
Windows were smashed at a co-op that sells kosher food, three kosher restaurants, a Jewish-owned hardware store, and two Judaica shops.
Green was arrested on George Street in New Brunswick at 3 p.m. on Nov. 30, according to Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan. Because of its apparent anti-Semitic nature, the investigation has been handled by the prosecutor’s office, which was in contact with the targeted institutions and the Anti-Defamation League.
The ADL’s NJ regional chair, Lawrence Cooper, called the incidents “shocking crimes” and “appalling.”
Authorities did not disclose where Green was being held. The Middlesex County Jail confirmed to NJJN on Dec. 5 he had never been there.
Several people told NJJN that Green’s face is not unfamiliar to owners of Jewish establishments and institutions.
“I have spoken with people in Highland Park and in the community who do know Richard Green, and yes, he is Jewish,” said Rutgers Hillel executive director Andrew Getraer. “He is known to be mentally ill and has been treated for his mental illness.”
Windows were also smashed at Rutgers Chabad House on the New Brunswick campus sometime between Nov. 27 and 30. Staff members there had given police Green’s name as a possible suspect.
“We’ve met this individual,” Chabad executive director Rabbi Yosef Carlebach told NJJN. “We’ve had some recent experience with him. It’s really a very sad story of someone who appears to be mentally deranged. We communicated that to law enforcement. We left it to the police to do their work. We told anyone who called that we contacted law enforcement and have a handle on it.”
‘Hard to believe’
Hillel was the first institution to be hit when staff discovered on Sunday night, Nov. 27, that a window had been broken by a rock some time over the Thanksgiving weekend. An object thrown through the window also damaged a computer screen.
“At the time, the New Brunswick Police said there was nothing to indicate there was any other motivation other than mischief,” said Getraer, a Highland Park resident.
He said Green has been known to staff and students at Rutgers Hillel “but had never previously been threatening.”
Getraer said the community felt comforted by the show of support it had been shown in the aftermath of the incident by students and university staff and administration.
“There is a strong sense of closure here, as there is no lingering threat or fear of anti-Semitism,” he said. “Instead, we pray for a fellow Jew, troubled and mentally ill.”
Additionally, Green has been identified as the person who accosted a kipa-wearing Rutgers student at about 2 a.m. on Nov. 30 in the Dunkin Donuts on Raritan Avenue in Highland Park.
The man approached the student and initiated a conversation about the Lubavitcher rebbe and other Jewish issues. The encounter degenerated as the man declared himself to be a neo-Nazi and member of the Ku Klux Klan, according to the student’s Facebook page, where it also says that the man told the student he should be “placed into a death camp, forced to make soap for three months while naked, and then gassed.” The page also says the man threatened to “start a second Kristallnacht” and was thrown out by shop employees.
Also in the early morning of Nov. 30 in New Brunswick, windows were smashed at the George Street Co-Op on Morris Avenue, which sells kosher food, and at an office building on Bayard Street, where the prosecutor’s office is a tenant.
On the mornings of Nov. 29 and 30, windows were broken at Maoz, a kosher restaurant on George Street.
Businesses along Raritan Avenue in downtown Highland Park that had their windows smashed in the early morning of Nov. 30 were the Jewish-owned Jack’s Hardware; two kosher restaurants, Jerusalem Pizza and Park Place; and two Judaica stores, Trio Gifts and Judaica Gallery.
Downtown New Brunswick and Highland Park are within walking distance of one another.
“When I got a phone call from a member of my staff, we thought it was a random act until we found out about Highland Park,” Maoz co-owner Larry Goldberg told NJJN. “It’s just so hard to believe this type of thing could happen in this day and age. It’s just so upsetting.”
Rabbi Ed Prince, the mashgiach, or kosher supervisor, at Jerusalem Pizza, said he found the damage when he came in at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 30.
“We’re just grateful no one was hurt and for the amount of support from our non-Jewish customers and passersby who have come in,” he said.
Green has been charged with three counts of third-degree bias intimidation, said Kaplan. He is also being charged with five counts of criminal mischief in Highland Park and another five from incidents in New Brunswick and on the Rutgers campus, which are considered fourth-degree crimes. A related bias intimidation count was filed in New Brunswick, said that city’s police director, Anthony Caputo, and by Rutgers University Police.
Highland Park Police Chief Stephen J. Rizco additionally announced that his department had also filed one count of bias intimidation against Green.