Cops: Note Found After Calif. Mosque Arson Cited NZ

'We won't stop praying,' Islamic spokesman in Escondido says
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 25, 2019 6:51 AM CDT
Cops: Calif. Mosque Fire Was Arson, Referenced NZ
An arson investigation was underway at the Islamic Center of Escondido in Escondido, Calif., early Sunday.   (Ramon Galindo/KNSD TV/NBC via AP)

But for one person who wasn't sleeping, a frightening and dangerous incident over the weekend at a California mosque could have turned tragic. Seven people were inside the Islamic Center of Escondido early Sunday when, shortly after 3am, the lone person not snoozing noticed flames and woke the others, Escondido Police Lt. Chris Lick says, per the Los Angeles Times. Together they were able to put out the fire using a fire extinguisher, Lick adds, per CBS News. But police soon noted the fire was no accident, blaming accelerant-aided arson instead, and they say a note found in the mosque's driveway referred to the mosque shootings that left 50 dead in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Police say the mosque's exterior was damaged, and that in addition to arson, they're investigating the fire as a possible hate crime, as spray-painted graffiti on the scene also referenced the New Zealand shooting, per NBC San Diego. "Everyone is on edge here today," says Yusef Miller, a spokesman for Escondido's Muslim community, per the Times. No one spotted a suspect, and no arrests have yet been made. Local police and fire officials are teaming up with FBI and ATF agents, as well as a regional bomb/arson squad, to investigate. In the meantime, Miller says the mosque will remain open, per NBC. "We won't stop praying," he says. "We won't stop gathering." (Read more mosque stories.)

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