Police investigate vandalism at Austin mosque

September 4, 2018

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Police in Austin are investigating a report of vandalism that occurred at a mosque over the weekend.

North Austin Muslim Community Center officials say security camera footage from the mosque show what appears to be a younger white man breaking several of the mosque’s windows early Sunday and slashing a vehicle’s tire in the parking lot.

“Initially I think (officers) thought it was an accident and then we discovered there were more windows and doors that had been damaged, so it was clear that was deliberate, unfortunately,” said Shanada Lewis, the center’s general secretary.

Lewis said someone’s tires were also slashed last week at the mosque, but members considered it an isolated incident.

The vandalism Sunday triggered the center’s security alarm, but the suspect fled before police arrived. The mosque reported the incident to police as a hate crime.

“Because of the severity of the vandalism, and because of the rise in anti-Muslim incidents and Islamophobia nationwide, we urge law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive in this case,” said Maira Sheikh, executive director of the Austin chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Austin Police spokesman Jeremy Bohannon couldn’t provide detail about the ongoing investigation. Investigators hadn’t released information on the vandalism or a potential suspect as of Monday.

Members of the mosque were shocked to see the damage when they arrived that morning to pray, said Adnan Suleiman, the center’s vice president. He said the center is open to people of all faiths and wishes the suspect would try to better understand the Muslim community.

Suleiman asked members to stay vigilant of their surroundings while police investigate. The center has hired armed overnight security officers and plans to install a higher-quality security camera system.