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2 arrested after patrol car set ablaze outside Tampa synagogue

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Two men were arrested for arson after they allegedly broke into a patrol car in South Tampa early Monday morning and set it on fire.

Police said they smelled something on fire when they stopped Matthew Ethridge and Jeremy Penney for riding their bicycles without lights in the area of Bay to Bay Boulevard and Manhattan Avenue.

A patrol car was found ablaze nearby in the parking lot of Shoresh David Messianic Synagogue around 1:30 a.m.

Police said someone had busted a window, and that the front seat on the passenger side was engulfed in flames, and that a door had blood on it.

Matthew Ethridge is seen in a mugshot after a 2016 arrest. (Source: Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office)

The fire did an estimated $3,000 in damage.

“At this time, there is nothing to indicate this is attributed or related to the synagogue. There may be an alternative means or alternative motive that we’re actively investigating,” said Tampa Police Department Maj. Eric DeFelice.

The major said the police may have been the intended target.

“It’s never good to be targeted as the police, but in this climate some people don’t like us and we’re well-aware of that,” he explained.

Police said both men have prior arrests for arson, and that Ethridge is on probation for arson and possession/use of a hoax bomb.

Ethridge and Penney were arrested Monday and charged with burglary of an authorized emergency vehicle and second-degree arson.

“Hopefully they’ll be held accountable and receive the help they need, because obviously they need some help,” Ron Leef, a synagogue elder, said of the suspects.

No one was hurt in the incident, police said.

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