By Nicole Bode
DNAinfo Associate Editor
MANHATTAN – A Harvard Law School graduate turned himself in to police Saturday night on charges he set fire to a Midtown East chapel that held the remains of unidentified 9/11 victims, the New York Post reports
Brian Schroeder, 26, was allegedly acting on a drunken dare when he broke into the Memorial Chapel, on East 30th Street and FDR Drive, early Saturday morning, the New York Post reports.
Schroeder allegedly set fire to benches inside the chapel, which is located behind the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s building, police said. The chapel was erected to temporarily house the unidentified remains of those who died in the September 11 attacks until a memorial is completed at Ground Zero. Relatives of the victims were encouraged to visit the space and leave notes, photos and mementoes for their loved ones.
The remains were not set on fire. But almost all of the photos and mementoes from the World Trade Center memorial were destroyed or stolen during the blaze, according to a letter sent to victims' families by the city.
"While the incident is still under investigation and details are sparse, what we do know is after the break-in, mementos were gathered and a fire was started in the chapel. We are unclear as to whether or not the mementos were stolen or burnt but little remains inside the chapel," Nazli Parvizi, a member of the mayor's community affairs unit, wrote to the families.
"Please rest assured that we are doing our best to understand why this senseless crime occurred and who was behind it."
The fire department had the flames under control by 9 a.m. There had been reports of a break-in around 8 a.m., according to Parvizi's letter and police.
"Anyone who would set fire to the inviolable Memorial Park chapel is craven and contemptible," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.
It was unclear how Schroeder got access to the tented building. He was expected to be charged Sunday, likely with arson, sources told the New York Times.
No other suspects have been named in the incident.
The area was open to relatives only, and required identification.