'He did snap,' friend says of man accused of plotting to burn down condo

Police say Walter Stopler sought to 'kill all the Jews'

By Glenna Milberg - Reporter

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - Friends and neighbors describe Walter Stopler as a gentle man, even willing to videotape silly videos on social media with his younger friends. They now fear the 72-year-old man accused of plotting to incinerate his building and everyone inside. 

"He was a gentle person. I think he did snap," Diaz said.

Miami Beach police arrested Walter Stopler on Friday after officers found dozens of gasoline canisters and explosive chemicals that he had stockpiled in a rented storage closet on the sixth floor of the Pavilion Residences on Collins Avenue. Police said he had poured some of the fuel down the building's trash chute and planned to start a fire.

Police said Stopler was angry at chronic and financially-crushing maintenance issues at the condominium.  He had stopped paying maintenance fees and so was facing foreclosure.

"He owed association fees. That was his anger toward the whole situations," Diaz said.

Stopler's spa business in Doral had also recently shut down.

Local 10's Glenna Milberg spoke with some of his neighbors in the building Tuesday. Even days later, the strong smell of gasoline still remains inside the condo building.

Police say they found gallons of gasoline in Walter Stopler's storage unit.

The Pavilion Residences has security cameras mounted in the hallways, leaving some residents to wonder how someone, carrying gas canisters through the hallways, could go undetected for months.

In Stopler's 15th-floor unit, Diaz said he saw Nazi-themed materials and a few weapons, but Stolper's claim to want to kill Jewish people in the building is what led Diaz to alert police. 

"I saw the Nazi flag on the bookshelves and all that," Diaz said. "I didn't feel he was racist until he started making remarks."

Now Diaz is shaken and said Stopler called him from jail with an implied threat.

"Every dog has his day -- don’t you ever forget that." Stopler told Diaz.

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