A nighttime 2001 explosion that damaged a home entryway was never forgotten, even though it took police eight years to make an arrest, authorities said Saturday. They suspect that and other events now under review may have been acts of revenge.
The incident “was always on the radar screen of the Rotterdam police even as it aged,” said Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney in a Saturday press conference at Rotterdam Town Court.
Stephen Raucci, of Niskayuna, was charged Friday with arson in connection with the explosion.
In 2006, five years after an explosive device was detonated at a Shardon Court home in Rotterdam, state police formed a task force to investigate that incident and other more recent vandalism complaints. They started scrutinizing Raucci, the head of facilities for Schenectady City School District, Carney said.
Victims of the crimes all had one thing in common — they had somehow “crossed” Raucci, Carney said.
Police believe the intended target of the Shardon Court explosion lived in a different house on the street. But victims of other incidents being investigated include school district employees and members of CSEA.
The 60-year-old Raucci is president of the district’s local CSEA chapter and has worked for the city school district for 36 years. He makes $79,297 a year as the district’s head utility worker.
“We believe that Mr. Raucci engaged in an ongoing course of conduct intending to intimidate people,” Carney said.
Carney said he didn’t know how many incidents are being investigated for a connection to Raucci.
Raucci’s tenure with the district and CSEA position may have given him power over people, Carney said.
“There may have been people who were aware of things about him who were either intimidated or looked the other way,” he said.
No one could look the other way on Friday, when Raucci was arrested mid-morning as he arrived at Mont Pleasant Middle School for work. He was charged with one count of first-degree arson and is being held in Schenectady County jail without bail for the weekend.
School district spokeswoman Karen Corona on Saturday said district officials were reluctant to comment. Late Saturday she released a statement from board President Jeff Janiszewski, expressing concern and deferring comment to Superintendent Eric Ely, who has scheduled a press conference for 10 a.m. Monday.
Authorities seized two computers, $120,000, and three handguns from Raucci’s home at 1421 Balltown Road, where he lives with his wife, and another computer and a small explosive device from his office.
Raucci had a handgun permit and may have owned the guns legally, Carney said. He couldn’t say whether Raucci had a criminal record.
In the Shardon Court incident, Raucci is accused of detonating a device, possibly an M-80 firecracker or a quarter-stick of dynamite.
The early morning explosion in August 2001 damaged the home’s metal door, deformed the door frame and blew the handle off, and could have seriously injured anyone standing inside, Carney said. No one was hurt.
At the scene, police recovered a note that said, “We hate you and your grievances” and “you may be a tough guy with women, let’s see how tough you are with men.”
Carney wouldn’t comment on whether police believe the “grievances” related to union business.
Other incidents of vandalism and graffiti that are under investigation for a possible connection to Raucci span Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties, Carney said.
Police are investigating reports of vehicle vandalism, including slashed tires and damage to vehicle paint.
“We are talking about the issue of jurisdiction,” Carney said, since the crimes may have been committed in several counties. “We believe the genesis of the crime … was in Schenectady County.”
Authorities ask anyone with information about Raucci to call Rotterdam police at 355-7397, state police at 1-800-GIVE-TIP or [email protected] or Carney at 388-4364.
“We are very much interested in any input from the public,” Carney said.
Raucci could face a charge of possession of a weapon from the explosive device that was found in his office. Carney described it as a 2-by-3-inch cardboard-covered device with a protruding fuse. It did not appear to be commercially made, he said.
School children were not among Raucci’s alleged victims, Carney said.
“I can say that there’s no indication in the investigation that he targeted or took out any of his aggressive intentions on children who attended the school.”