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Man charged with hate crime for burning rainbow bench to ‘send it back to hell’

Man charged with hate crime for burning rainbow bench to ‘send it back to hell’

Francis Solis.

A New York man has been charged with a hate crime for torching a rainbow bench Monday (7 September) night to ‘send it back to hell.’

The bench outside the First Presbyterian Church in Ogdensburg represented the congregation’s acceptance of LGBTI people.

Francis Solis, 47, turned himself in on Tuesday after a friend recognized him from surveillance footage police had released to the media.

He was charged with fifth-degree arson and third-degree criminal mischief as a hate crime the next day.

‘The hate crime charge comes as a result of the act being committed due to Mr Solis’s feelings of what the bench represented, and his feelings of the gay community,’ police said.

In his statement, Solis said the bench had triggered memories of ‘what happened to me as a child by adult gay men.’

‘The reaction I had to it practically knocked me off my bike. It brought back every single memory from the time I had been molested from the time I was eight years old, on into the time I was 14 years old,’ he wrote.

Solis said he had planned the attack for two days beforehand.

Wearing a mask and dark clothes, he doused the bench with three bottles of gasoline and then set it alight with a disposable lighter and torn piece of egg carton.

Solis stopped at St Mary’s Church on the way home to pray.

‘I stopped at the cathedral and sat on the bench in front of Mary for a little bit. I got on my knees and said a prayer,’ he wrote.

Solis is being held at St Lawrence County jail on $5,000 cash bail or $10,000 bond.