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Police Searching For Arsonist Suspected Of Setting Fire To Escondido Mosque

March 26, 2019 1:42 p.m.

GUEST: Claire Trageser, investigative reporter, KPBS News

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Related Story: Police Searching For Arsonist Suspected Of Setting Fire To Escondido Mosque


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Speaker 1: 00:00 A fundraising effort is underway to help repair an Escondido mosque damaged early Sunday morning and what's being investigated as a hate crime after a suspected arsonists said fire to the building. KPBS investigative reporter Claire Tried to Sir has been following the story and she joins me now with more. Claire, welcome. Thank you. Oh, what do we know about the attack on the Islamic center of Escondido and why investigators believe it was arson? Well, it happened at 3:00 AM, uh, early Sunday morning and the police have said that an accelerant was used and so that's why they are investigating it as arson. Uh, there were seven worshipers actually inside at the time that the fire was set because they were on an overnight spiritual retreat. And so they were able to put the fire out and called nine one one. So there was actually only some minor damage caused. Are there any details about a suspect in this attack?

Speaker 1: 00:53 There was no description of the suspect according to Escondido police as of late yesterday. But as we said, police are investigating it as both ours and, and a hate crime because there was graffiti also left on the mosque when the fire was set. That's right. And in investigators have said the graffiti spray painted on the side of the mosque made reference to the New Zealand mosque attacks in which 50 people died. There a, do we know what the graffiti said? No police. Um, the Escondido police have said that they aren't releasing the contents of the graffiti, what it said as of now, but they, um, they hope to have an update on that soon. I'm not sure why they are not wanting to release that as of now, but it sounds like we may be able to get more information, um, in the future. And you spoke with Dustin [inaudible], executive director of the Council on American Islamic relations about the attack.

Speaker 1: 01:46 What did he have to say? Well, he's obviously very concerned. Um, and he says that he's continuing to see an increase of, of hate crimes. Uh, locally. The numbers were up by 15% between 2016 and 2017 and nationwide they were up 17% and so he, he really blamed it on white supremacy. He said that we all need to address this or crimes like these will continue. So here's what he said, white supremacy kills over and over again, whether it's at a mosque, a temple, a church or a synagogue. How many more times does this have to happen for people to take seriously how big of a problem white supremacy is in our world. And then he also said that he's working with mosques across the county to increase security because uh, the celebration of Ramadan is coming up in May and he's concerned about copycat crimes.

Speaker 1: 02:37 And Claire, have other San Diego groups responded to the suspected hate crime? Sure. So there was a interfaith vigil on Sunday night after the attack happened with different local groups who came out in support of, of the mosque. And the local, I'm anti Defamation League chapter has released a statement that says this attack appears to be to send a signal to the Muslim community. Sadly, this type of behavior is consistent with the growth in hate crimes, rise in attacks on Muslims and the surge in anti Muslim bigotry that we have seen in our country and around the world. And they said that they, they stand with their brothers and sisters in the Muslim community, um, to condemn this attack. And a fundraising campaign has been established to help the Islamic center rebuild. What can you tell us about that? Yeah, so there are funds are for repairs and increased security, and it's being organized by the Council on Islamic relations and you can find the link for slash Escondido I've been speaking with KPBS investigative reporter Clare [inaudible] Clare, thanks for joining us. Thank you.

Speaker 2: 03:49 Okay.