Man indicted on 15 charges for throwing smoke bombs at NJ church during anti-racism event

The sanctuary of Trinity Episcopal Church of Asbury Park, New Jersey.
The sanctuary of Trinity Episcopal Church of Asbury Park, New Jersey. | Screengrab: YouTube/Trinity Episcopal Church

A man faces 15 charges related to an incident in January in which he allegedly threw smoke bombs at an anti-racism event organized by a New Jersey church.

Nicholas G. Mucci, 28, of Toms River, was indicted for allegedly attacking attendees at an anti-racism concert hosted by Trinity Episcopal Parish of Asbury Park and vandalizing the church's property.

New Jersey’s Office of the Attorney General and the Division of Criminal Justice announced Wednesday that Mucci was indicted on 15 charges: aggravated arson, two counts of causing or risking widespread injury or damage, two counts of possession of a destructive device, unlawful possession of a weapon, two counts of possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of terroristic threats, possession of a firearm, possession of a large capacity ammunition magazine, and hindering.

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“The rich diversity of cultures, religions, and ideals in New Jersey is one of our state’s greatest strengths and what had brought celebrants to Trinity Parish at the time of the alleged attack,” said First Assistant Attorney General Lyndsay V. Ruotolo, as quoted in the announcement. “This indictment demonstrates our commitment to protecting all members of our community and enforcing the rights of all New Jerseyans to live free from the threat of violence and fear.”

In late January, Trinity Episcopal Parish held a concert organized by the social justice advocacy organization the One People’s Project that was focused on anti-racist activism.

Near the end of the concert, a masked individual threw smoke bombs at the crowd, shouted “white lives matter too,” and drove off. The figure returned later and tried to pepper spray some concert attendees who were still at the church.

In addition, an unknown party vandalized an LGBT pride flag located next to the church's sign. The flag in question had been vandalized a couple of times in the past.

In March, Mucci was arrested by authorities with the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, the DCJ and state police, with assistance from the FBI.

New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin said in a statement at the time that his state “is, and always will be, a state that values the rich diversity of all cultures, religions and ideals.”

“This attack targeted people exercising their freedom of expression as they left a house of worship,” stated Platkin. “Our perseverance in investigating and bringing to justice the person responsible for this attack demonstrates our commitment to protecting the rights of all New Jerseyans to live free from the threat of violence and fear.”

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