Texas State student charged in Austin synagogue fire on Halloween

Amira Van Leeuwen | Staff Reporter

AUSTIN – Austin Fire Department Arson Investigators have charged Franklin Barrett Sechriest, San Marcos resident and student at Texas State University, in connection with a fire set at a synagogue in central Austin on Oct 31.

The fire occurred at Beth Israel Synagogue located at 3901 Shoal Creek Blvd at 9:05 pm.

The 18-year-old was arrested on Nov. 10 under the suspicion of arson, a first-degree felony with “intent to damage or destroy a place of assembly or worship.”

The fire caused roughly $25,000 in damages to the building.

According to an arrest affidavit, surveillance footage showed a dark-colored Jeep, later identified as a 2021 black Jeep Cherokee, enter the north parking lot. The driver walked up to the Beth Israel front admin entrance carrying a green container, similar in size, shape and color to a green 5-gallon VP Racing Fuel utility.

Footage showed the driver exiting the vehicle heading in a direction toward the north area where the fire started. Investigators observed the ignition of the fire and the driver running back toward the vehicle before speeding off.

The front license plate was clearly visible in the surveillance video, which was registered to a resident of San Marcos, Nicole Sechriest. 

On Nov. 8, law enforcement personnel observed Franklin driving the Jeep Cherokee, matching the physical description from Beth Israel surveillance cameras.

This is a developing story, San Marcos Corridor News will provide updates as they are made available.

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    1. Are you suggesting that this teenager, this violent, hateful, antisemitic arsonist is a hero of some sort?

      I suggest that he is a dangerous criminal whose hatred for Jewish people has just ruined his own life, while traumatizing thousands of his fellow Texans. I just hope he doesn’t roam free among us anytime soon.

      1. Unlike you, Ms. Simone, who hates anyone who disagrees with your own hate-speech.
        You call your opinion truth and condemn those who don’t agree.
        Your hated enemies nevertheless allow you to “roam free among us.”
        You tie a hangman’s knot real quick with your beautiful words, don’tcha ?
        You crave power and submission to your power by any means possible.
        Whether by face-masks, race-baiting or immunity to criticism, you want power.

        1. JT said, “You crave power and submission to your power by any means possible.
          Whether by face-masks, race-baiting or immunity to criticism, you want power.”

          You certainly assume a lot, as I said none of those things, I simply condemn, as do others, this young man targeting a Jewish house of worship, committing arson, to make some hateful statement.

          And I grieve not only for his hateful, terroristic state of mind, but for his family, his friends and our entire Texas community who have to now deal with his actions and their ramifications.

  1. The previous comment by “Ann Frank-n-Stein” should have been vetted, and not published, for its anti-Semitism and religious hatred.

    Your media outlet appears to have no boundaries or guidelines for community standards, or hate speech.

    Does this news outlet support hate speech and arson? Or do you just enable arsonists? Hateful speech? Anti-Semitism?

  2. “While the crime has not yet been declared a hate crime, investigators found hateful rhetoric in Sechriest’s car. “They hate your ancestors, they hate your culture, they hate your nation, they hate your religion … it’s okay to hate them back,” a sticker in his car read, according to authorities. Another sticker displayed swastikas with the slogan: “Would you kill them all to see your rights? The price of freedom is paid in blood.”

    He has ruined his life, and for what?

  3. While “hate speech” is not a legal term in the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court
    has repeatedly ruled that most speech which is censored by a dictatorship or under
    communism is legally protected free speech under the First Amendment. For a good reason.

    Our 1st amendment is NOT about the speech you like, it also protects speech that some
    people don’t you want to hear. Call it “hate speech” or whatever. Who are the haters of
    “hate speech?” Why, that’s obvious. They’re known as the “cancel culture”, the self-righteous,
    self-ordained bullies who push the agenda of a “new and progressive society.”

    What do they hate most of all ? Our 1st Amendment.
    Does this describe anyone here . . . ?

  4. The anti-Semitic comment I was referring to has been taken down by the Editors of this paper.

    That person, writing under the pseudonym,“Ann Frank-n-Stein,” had suggested that we simply get rid of all Jews, and then we would not need to have synagogue arsonists.

    I applaud the Editors for recognizing that this was not a helpful comment. That was very wise of them, as hate speech like that is not conducive to a civilized online discussion.

    1. No dear, the facts “suggest” you are inventing a narrative to fit your agenda.
      I recall that post clearly stating ‘ the world would be cured by abolishing the
      cause of synagogue arson. ‘

      Arson is caused by an arsonist.

      You, on the other hand, are the person who twisted it to say,
      “simply get rid of all Jews, and then we would not need to have synagogue arsonists.”

      Your moral outrage yawns at the church burners of Baptists and Catholics,
      as that would be unproductive on behalf of your need to censor everyone
      but yourself. Hence you follow the path of any narrative having sharp teeth,
      even if you’ve got to sharpen them yourself.

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