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Brooklyn Man Facing Hate Crime Charges After Allegedly Destroying Church's Crucifix, Setting Fire To Yeshiva, Synagogue

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A Brooklyn man is facing hate crime charges after he allegedly destroyed a crucifix and burned an American flag at church and later set fire to a yeshiva and synagogue.

Ali Alaheri, 29, was charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime.

Police said Alaheri knocked down and destroyed a large crucifix statue outside St. Athanasius Church in Bensonhurst.

The NYPD needs help finding the vandals who toppled and shattered a crucifix at a Brooklyn church. (Credit: St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church)

Alaheri is also accused of burning an American flag outside the rectory.

A pastor discovered the damage on May 14.

"It was a terrible morning. It was probably the saddest day in my life, to see this desecration of a cross of Jesus and the desecration of the flag," Monsignor David Cassato told CBS2 the day it happened.

Parishioners gathered in prayer that night and used a crucifix from one of their classrooms as a temporary replacement outside the church.

The crucifix that was destroyed stood for 11 years.

The Department of Justice says on Wednesday, Alaheri deliberately set fire to a yeshiva and synagogue on 36th Street in Brooklyn.

Surveillance video allegedly shows Alaheri piling garbage bags against the side of the building and lighting them on fire.

Firefighters responded to a fire alarm and extinguished the flames.

Later that same day, Alaheri also allegedly attacked a man wearing traditional Hasidic garb.

He was arrested in Dobbs Ferry on Friday.

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