Thomas Bona was arrested and charged with hate crimes in connection with antisemitic vandalism at Congregation Beth Israel in Chico.
Thomas Bona was arrested and charged with hate crimes in connection with antisemitic vandalism at Congregation Beth Israel in Chico.

Man arrested for burning Chico synagogue sign last week

Police have arrested a Chico man suspected of committing an arson attack at Congregation Beth Israel last week.

Repeat offender Thomas David Bona, 36, was arrested Nov. 4 and is being charged with felonies and several enhancements for hate crimes, each of which can mean an additional one to three years in prison.

Officers located the suspect in the lobby of a campus building at Cal State Chico “after receiving complaints” about his behavior, Chico police said in a release.

Officials said they obtained “evidence and statements” leading to suspect Bona was responsible for setting fire to a sign welcoming visitors to the synagogue and tagging it with swastikas — an incident that was reported a day earlier.

The charges also include vandalizing a mural honoring indigenous women, according to a Nov. 7 press release from the Butte County District Attorney’s office, and for throwing a rock through the window of a restaurant in October.

Bona has a long history of similar incidents. In January 2021, he was sentenced to six years in prison for vandalism and hate crimes, but was released under supervision in 2022 because of previous time in custody pre-sentencing, plus time off because of the way in which the state calculates actual time in custody.

Available police records in Chico show arrests for Bona going back to 2006; he has been committed for mental health issues and had a mental health firearms restriction that was later lifted. He is currently being held without bail.

The vandalism in Chico marks the latest in a series of antisemitic outbursts in the Sacramento Valley in recent months. In late August, four black-clad activists, members of a white supremacist cell, hung banners above a highway near UC Davis claiming the Holocaust “is an anti-white lie” and “Communism is Jewish.” Sacramento State University has dealt with repeated acts of pro-Nazi vandalism since the start of the fall semester, prompting the mayor to speak at a press conference to decry hate.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said, according to the press release, “that Bona obviously has mental problems and has had many treatment opportunities both in custody and out, but Bona’s continual terrorizing of the community cannot be tolerated and he will be held once again in long-term involuntary custody to protect the public.”