, , ,

Man charged with 2022 firebombing of Wisconsin anti-abortion office

DNA found on discarded burrito leads police to arrest

Damage to the inside and outside of the Wisconsin Family Action's offices in Madison is being investigated as "suspicious"
Wisconsin Family Action’s offices in Madison sustained damage after a firebombing in May 2022. Shawn Johnson/WPR

Investigators on Tuesday finally captured the man they believe firebombed a prominent Wisconsin anti-abortion lobbying group’s office last year ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Madison announced that police arrested 29-year-old Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury at Boston’s Logan International Airport on Tuesday. He was charged via the complaint with one count of attempting to cause damage by means of fire or an explosive. He was scheduled to appear in federal court in Boston later Tuesday. Online court records didn’t list an attorney for him.

Federal agents have been searching for almost a year for whoever tossed a pair of Molotov cocktails into the Wisconsin Family Action office in Madison on May 6. One of the firebombs failed to ignite; the other set a bookcase on fire. The message “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either” was spray-painted on the building’s exterior. No one was in the office at the time.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
The words
The words “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either” were painted in black on the building of the Wisconsin Family Action’s offices in Madison. Shawn Johnson/WPR

The attack came about a week after a draft opinion suggesting the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion, leaked. The release sparked abortion rights supporters to mount protests across the country.

The court did overturn the ruling in June. The move put Wisconsin’s 1849 ban on abortion back into play.

According to the criminal complaint against Roychowdhury, investigators pulled DNA samples from three individuals from evidence at the scene of the Wisconsin attack. But the samples didn’t match any profiles in the U.S. Department of Justice’s DNA database.

This past January, police assigned to protecting the state Capitol building in Madison reviewed surveillance video of a protest against police brutality. The footage showed several people spray-painting graffiti on Capitol grounds. The graffiti resembled the graffiti at the Wisconsin Family Action office.

The footage showed two people leaving the area in a white pickup truck, which investigators tracked to Roychowdhury’s residence in Madison, according to the complaint. Police began following him.

On March 1, he pulled into a Madison park-and-ride and threw away a bag of fast food. After he left, police retrieved the bag from the trash can. DNA on a burrito in the bag matched DNA taken from the Wisconsin Family Action office, according to the complaint.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement that Roychowdhury traveled to Madison this month to Portland, Maine. He had a one-way ticket for a flight from Boston to Guatemala City, Guatemala, that was scheduled to depart Tuesday morning when he was arrested, the office said.