(Courtesy of the Austin Fire Department)
AUSTIN, Texas - Imam Islam Mossaad with the North Austin Muslim Community Center said they first noticed something was off when they came in Tuesday morning.
“We noticed of course the smell of gasoline in the morning and we contacted the law enforcement at that point,” Mossaad said.
Because of previous vandalism at the Community Center, Mossaad says they have plenty of cameras.
“A suspect that is seen coming through the fence pouring what appears to be gasoline on the side of the building and then attempting to light the pieces of paper on fire,” said Captain Andy Reardon with the Austin Fire Department.
The suspect was on the property for at least 20 minutes according to the video.
AFD is investigating the attempted arson with the help of the Austin Police Department and other agencies.
“When APD went out there they also noticed that in a field to the north of the building there were some crumpled up burned pieces of paper on the ground,” Reardon said. "That’s when they called our office and asked for our response."
He is described as possibly a white or Hispanic male, approximately 6' and 160 pounds. He was pictured wearing a Nike sweatshirt with a black hoodie under used to conceal his face, blue jeans, and black Nike tennis shoes. The suspect's vehicle is described as a white or light colored Ford F150 or similar vehicle as no clear photos were obtained, according to AFD.
“My assumption is that he’s acting alone,” Mossaad said. "Many times these sorts of acts are individuals who have been reading or listening to a lot of hatred about Islam and Muslims and unfortunately sometimes it even comes from politicians all the way at the top."
Imam Mossaad told congregants about the attempted arson during an afternoon prayer Wednesday afternoon.
“We are concerned but at the same time we are undeterred in coming to worship and coming to educate and also serving the broader community,” Mossaad said.
AFD is asking anyone with information to call the Crime Stoppers tip line at 512-472-8477 (TIPS), and is advising anyone to be aware of suspicious activity and vehicles in the area and at the Center during the overnight hours.
They say at the minimum the suspect will be charged with attempted arson, a second degree felony, which is punishable by two to 20 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.