A 23-year-old man is facing arson and hate crime charges in the firebombing of a mosque in Southern California, police say.
Carl James Dial Jr. was arrested Saturday and charged with arson, commission of a hate crime, maliciously setting a fire and second-degree burglary, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said in a press release.
Dial, of Palm Desert, is accused of setting a fire on Friday that caused serious damage to the Islamic Society of Coachella Valley, the sheriff’s department says. He is being held in lieu of $150,000 bail at the Indio jail.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Fire Started Just Before an Afternoon Prayer Service
The fire at the Coachella mosque started Friday at about noon, the Riverside County Fire Department said in a press release.
The Islamic Society of Coachella Valley is located on Avenue 49, police said. Cal-Fire of Riverside County quickly contained the fire and no one was injured. The blaze, which began just before an afternoon prayer service, caused serious damage to the lobby and exterior of the building.
“The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department/Coachella Police Department believed this was an intentional act potentially resulting in a hate crime, and utilized all available resources in an attempt to identify and locate the suspect. A person of interest was quickly identified and was subsequently located and detained pending further investigation. This is an active and ongoing investigation, and additional updates will be provided as they become available,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement.
Witnesses said they heard a loud boom and then saw flames, according to The Desert Sun.
“God’s going to take care of everyone,” Kassim al-Wisha told the newspaper. “We’re gonna fix it. We have insurance.”
2. The Mosque’s Imam Says the Arson Is ‘an Act of Terrorism’
The acting imam at the mosque, Reymundo Nour, told NBC News the firebombing was an “act of terrorism.”
“The individual targeted us, we believe that it was targeted,” Nour said.
He told the New York Times it saddens him that an “ignorant” person would do what Dial did.
“We go to the mosque with our families,” Nour told the New York Times. He said the mosque, which was shot at last year, has armed security. “Everyone wants to feel safe.”
Nour, who said he is a decorated combat veteran, told the Times, “We have to understand we’re not any less American than anyone else,” said Mr. Nour, who described himself as a “decorated combat veteran. We’re not going to be scared away. We’re here to stay.”
Officials condemned the attack.
“We see this as a cowardly act of vandalism that we do not tolerate in our community,” Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez told The Desert Sun. “Freedom of religion is one of our core values in this country, so any time we witness violence or vandalism directed at a religious institution, it flies in the face of everything we stand for and believe in as Americans.”
In a statement, Congressman Raul Ruiz said, “Our faith in humanity will not be intimidated and we stand together against any form violence towards the innocent.”
3. Dial’s Parents Called Him a ‘Loner’ Who Was ‘Caught Up in Social Media’
Dial’s parents told NBC News the 23-year-old had recently moved in with his brother and was studying at a local college. They described him as a loner who may have a mental issue, but said he needs to face the consequences of his actions.
“We will supply him with money for the commissary. We have no plans to bail him out. He’s an adult,” John Dial told NBC News about his son. “We both said right there, we said to him, I hope you like reading books, because you’re in it for the long haul. He’s a man.”
John Dial said his son became anti-social around 2000 and saw mental health professionals when he was younger.
“He was caught up in social media. Social media has produced people like my son, without person-to-person contact,” John Dial told NBC News. “I believe he was lacking in social skills.”
4. He Posted on His Facebook Page About Watching ISIS Execution Videos
Dial, whose changed his Facebook profile page to add the French flag in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, has posted in recent months about watching ISIS videos online.
On Halloween, he posted, “I bet you f****ts are watching horror movies. Well I’m watching ISIS execution videos and listening to Korn’s first album. S**t don’t get more offputting than that.”
On May 24, he wrote, “I want to see ISIS take Baghdad. I want to see President Obama try to justify this embarrassment and the media jump through hoops for AMURICAN PATRIOTISM in order to justify training that shit army for years. I want Bush and Clinton to get interviewed trying to blame everybody else and I want to see Putin point and laugh in the name of GLORIOUS SOVIET RUSSIA AFGHAN INVASION.”
5. There Have Been Several Anti-Muslim Incidents Since the San Bernardino Terror Attack
The firebombing is the latest in a string of anti-Muslim incidents in the wake of the San Bernardino terror attack.
“We hope it serves as a reminder that, unfortunately, hate speech has consequences. Hate incidents do not occur in a vacuum,” Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations told the Los Angeles Times about the arson attack. “They are the natural result of a climate fueled by hatred, by fear-mongering.”
Also on Friday, CAIR’s offices in Santa Clara and Washington, D.C., were evacuated after they received threatening letters containing a powdery substance. The substance was not dangerous.
Mosques have also been the targets of vandalism and threats. According to CAIR, a Muslim store owner was attacked in New York, a pig’s head was thrown at a mosque in Philadelphia and a sixth-grader was attacked by classmates and called “ISIS” in New York.
Authorities near San Francisco are investigating after a woman was caught on video screaming at a group of praying Muslims and then attacking them. Read more about her at the link below: