A resident at a Miami Beach condo was angry after learning he was about to be evicted so he planned to burn down the building and had one group, in particular, targeted, police say.
Along with gasoline and some of the materials he planned to use to fan the flames, detectives found artifacts with swastikas and books of Nazi ideology inside his apartment.
Miami Beach police said their quick action responding to a tip stopped a condo complex on Collins Avenue from going up in flames Thursday afternoon.
“We are confident the work of our detectives prevented an imminent crisis at 5601 Collins Ave.,” police said Friday morning after the arrest of Walter Edward Stolper on a charge of attempted arson in the first degree.
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Police say Stolper, 72, was angry over being served eviction papers and had expressed anger and aggression toward other residents at the condominium on several occasions.
On Thursday, police say Stolper told witness Luis Diaz that he was “going to burn down the building with all the f------ Jews,” according to the arrest report.
According to the affidavit, Diaz said Stolper told him he was going to fill plastic containers with gasoline, pour the fuel down the building’s main line, and ignite the gas. Stolper told Diaz that he purchased two electrical fans “to fan the flames and cause maximum amount of damage.”
Diaz also told police Stolper bought padlocks and painted them red and told him he had intended to place the locks on the condo’s fire hoses to prevent the fire department from putting out the fire.
A resident at the Collins condo, Viannette Justino, told police Stolper had recently been served with eviction papers, but it is not clear why the association wanted him removed.
When Miami Beach officers Raymond Diaz (no relation), Sergio Campos and Fulgencio Medina arrived at the condo at about 5:45 p.m. they saw Stolper in the parking garage moving two plastic containers using a shopping cart. According to the affidavit, police smelled gasoline coming from the shopping cart and Stolper’s car.
Justino told police that several residents “could smell a strong odor of gasoline in the hallways and elevators.”
Police found eight plastic containers filled with gasoline in the garbage chute dumpster that had been tossed down the chute. Gasoline had also been poured down the chute from the 15th floor, police said.
Officers said the gas-filled containers in the dumpster matched the gas-filled containers Stolper had with him in the garage.
Detectives interviewed Stolper inside his apartment and he gave consent to search the unit, police said. There, police found the two black electrical fans, along with the swastikas and Nazi books.
“I bought the gas to make a small barbecue,” Stolper told detectives, the arrest report said.
“His motivation appears to be triggered by an upcoming eviction and anger towards Jewish neighbors,” Miami Beach police said in a tweet posted Friday morning.
Later Friday, the Anti-Defamation League praised local and federal law enforcement for the fast action.
“We commend the Miami Beach Police Department, led by Chief Daniel J. Oates, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for taking this tip seriously, and for the swift investigation which undoubtedly thwarted a potential mass-casualty event,” said Sheri Zvi, ADL Florida regional director in a statement.
“Based on available public information about the incident, we urge the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office to take a hard look at reclassifying and prosecuting this incident as a hate crime,” the ADL added.