Prosecutors have upgraded charges against an elderly man accused of trying to kill Jewish people by torching a Miami Beach condo building.
Walter Edward Stolper, 72, was formally charged with attempted first-degree murder, arson and possession of a destructive device. Because they believe he was acting with prejudice toward Jewish people, prosecutors added the “hate-crime” enhancement, which means he faces stiffer penalties if convicted.
Stolper faces life in prison if he is found guilty.
Stolper did not appear in person for Thursday’s arraignment in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. He remains jailed in a psychiatric unit at a Miami-Dade jail. On a request from his defense lawyer, a judge ordered a psychiatric evaluation for Stolper.
“Competency may be an issue in this case,” said his lawyer, Gus Lage. “It’s much too early in the process to know what occurred and how the defense will play out.”
Miami Beach police say they thwarted Stolper, who was being evicted from his unit, after he doused the condo with gasoline and was preparing to torch the building at 5601 Collins Ave. Officers later found artifacts with swastikas and books of Nazi ideology inside his apartment.
A witness told police Stolper said that he had bought plastic containers with gas and that he was “going to burn down the building with all the f------ Jews,” according to his arrest report.
Miami Beach police saw Stolper in the parking garage moving two plastic containers using a shopping cart, and smelled gas coming from the items, police said. Gasoline had already been poured down from the 15th floor, authorities said.