Firebug's a Harvard Graduate: WTC Chapel Blaze Spurs Outrage

NY Daily News - November 02, 2009

by Bill Egbert and Kevin Deutsch

He's New York's newest Public Enemy No. 1 - and he has a Harvard law degree.

Outraged kin of 9/11 victims were reeling as Ivy Leaguer Brian Schroeder spent another night in jail on charges he set fire to a sacred chapel that holds the unidentified remains of those killed in the terror attacks.

Defense lawyer Gary Lesser said Schroeder was boozed up - and believes someone may have "put something in his drink."

Schroeder also had no idea what he was lighting on fire.

"He voluntarily went to the precinct the next day after he realized the gravity of what had happened," Lesser said.

Relatives of the Sept. 11 victims said they didn't want to hear any excuses from Schroeder, whose friends fell short last night, coming up with only half of the $3,000 bail set by a judge after he was charged with arson and reckless endangerment.

"How was this guy raised?" asked retired FDNY Deputy Chief Jim Riches, whose firefighter son Jimmy died on 9/11.

"I don't know what they teach these kids at Harvard, but this was a slap in the face of every 9/11 family member."

Schroeder, 26, a native Texan who just look a job at a Manhattan law firm, told cops he wasn't thinking - he was just dumb and drunk - when he lit the blaze early Friday morning.

Wooden benches and mementos, honoring the dead - including notes, flowers and pictures - were badly damaged; the remains were not hit.

"When my son was 26, he was coming home from five years in the Marine Corps," said Sally Regenhard, whose son Christian, also a firefighter, perished on 9/11. "Why are the good people gone and the losers still with us?"

Schroeder's family and friends were shocked.

"It's out of character and there's nothing that would lead me to believe it's politically motivated," said brother Jared Schroeder, 28. "Brian's not that kind of guy."

The 9/11 families were also upset at what they said were security lapses at the E. 30th St. chapel overseen by the city medical examiner's office.

"This was the straw that broke the camel's back," said Regenhard, who protested yesterday with other family members.

"We're taking steps to ensure that nothing like this happens again," said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office.

"Mayor [Bloomberg] is disgusted by this act of sickening vandalism," said City Hall spokesman Jason Post.

With Kristen V. Brown, Simone Weichselbaum and Jonathan Lemire