DNA on half-eaten burrito led to arrest of Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury, in antiabortion office firebombing

October 29, 2020

Last spring, police in Madison, Wis., were alerted to a fire at the office of a prominent antiabortion lobbying group. At the scene, they found molotov cocktails and a purple lighter that indicated arsonists had tried to start a fire. Black graffiti aimed at antiabortion advocates had been sprayed on the walls. They also found the DNA of three people.

Now, after almost a year of searching, authorities have identified a suspect with the help of DNA found on a half-eaten burrito. Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury, 29, was arrested in Boston, authorities said Tuesday. He is charged with one count of attempting to cause damage by means of fire or an explosive, and could face up to 20 years in prison.

The fire at the office of Wisconsin Family Action occurred almost a week after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the right to abortion was leaked. At the time, violent attacks against antiabortion groups were on the rise, with suspected attacks on antiabortion centers in a Buffalo suburb, Oregon, Virginia and North Carolina.


At the crime scene in Madison, authorities found jars with pieces of clothing, inflammable liquid and burn marks. One of those jars had set fire to a row of books at the office of Wisconsin Family Action’s president, Julaine Appling, who condemned the attack. “People disagree with me all the time,” she told a local TV station. “I don’t go threaten them.”

On the exterior wall of the building, police found black graffiti in cursive that read, “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either.”

Evidence from the scene produced “DNA profiles from three different individuals,” according to an affidavit that officials filed to a federal court. One profile, that of a male, was obtained from window glass, the molotov cocktails and the ignition wheel of the purple lighter. The DNA didn’t match any in a federal database of convicted criminals.

In January, authorities caught a break. Police monitoring protests at the Wisconsin Capitol observed multiple individuals spraying graffiti on the Capitol grounds. Authorities saw that the graffiti “appeared to have some visual similarities” to the words spray-painted on the office of Wisconsin Family Action.

Police also noticed that the graffiti painters left the Capitol in a 2005 white Toyota Tacoma pickup truck that they later tracked to an address belonging to Roychowdhury in Madison. Authorities began following Roychowdhury.

On March 1, authorities saw Roychowdhury stop the Toyota in a park-and-ride lot. After stepping out of the car, he threw away a brown bag containing a “partially eaten burrito wrapped in waxed paper.” DNA swabs on the burrito were sent to labs. On March 17, forensic biologists confirmed that the DNA matched that of the male from the Wisconsin Family Action crime scene, authorities said.

Law enforcement officials arrested Roychowdhury at Boston Logan International Airport on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, after he bought a one-way ticket to Guatemala. He was due for a detention hearing in Boston later that day.

Roychowdhury or his legal representatives could not be immediately reached early Wednesday.

“Violence is never an acceptable way for anyone to express their views or their disagreement,” said Assistant FBI Director Robert R. Wells in a news release.



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