YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A convicted Englewood felon charged with torching an SUV before dawn Friday stole it earlier from a city bar, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said this afternoon.
Rafael Lynch, 31, was being held on on $250,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail.
He’s charged with aggravated arson, theft and various drug selling charges — for marijuana and prescription drugs on school property and near public housing — Molinelli said, confirming a CLIFFVIEW PILOT report from last night.
An overnight brawl led police to both the arson and a shooting in which a bullet broke through the front window of a senior citizen’s apartment.
Authorities said they suspect the fight, the shooting and the arson are linked.
It began with a 1:15 a.m. brawl Friday yesterday involving several people at a social club near the Soldier’s Monument in the downtown Palisade Avenue business district, city Detective Capt. Timothy Torell said.
Most had left or were leaving as police arrived, he said.
A little over an hour later, officers went to nearby Cleveland Street on a report of shots fired. They found several shell casings — and were alerted by the senior to the bullet that came through her front window.
“Thankfully no one was hurt,” Torell said.
The Bergen County Sheriff’s Bureau of Criminal Identification collected evidence. As they and city detectives worked, two explosions were heard in the area.
Moments later, 911 callers pointed police to a car fire on Central Avenue at the St. Nicholas Avenue, a little over a half-mile away.
Police found an unoccupied a 2012 Honda Odyssey fully engulfed in flames. It had been stolen from an Englewood bar known asThe Lodge, Molinelli said.
Authorities believe the explosions were the tires of the vehicle as they burst from the heat.
Englewood firefighters extinguished the blaze, which also damaged the aluminum siding of a nearby home.
City detectives immedately contacted the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Arson Squad.
Investigators from both agencies worked through the night and into the following day, leading to a search warrant for Lynch’s Liberty Road home.
Found were items that were in the Honda at the time it was stolen, as well as “large amounts” of cash, marijuana, Oxycodone and Xanax pills and drug packaging paraphernalia, Molinelli said.
Detectives arrested the 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound Lynch, who records show has a history of offenses dating back nearly a decade.
“We strongly suspect, from the totality of the evidence, that all three incidents are related,” Torell said.
He asked that anyone with information about the night’s events call detectives: (201) 568-4875
“There are people out there who can help,” Torell said. “We are appealing to anyone’s sense of decency. Everyone has a senior citizen loved one somewhere.”
MUGSHOT: Courtesy BCPO