MOORHEAD, Minn. (AP) — Police in Minnesota arrested a 22-year-old man in the vandalism of a mosque after a tip from a Walmart employee who examined spray paint purchase records and store surveillance video in search of a possible suspect.
The local man was taken into custody Tuesday night in south Moorhead after police received the information from the store's loss prevention officer, Moorhead Police Capt. Deric Swenson said.
Swenson said the officer noticed that red spray paint was used in the incident and began to examine store purchase records. The employee found a man on surveillance video buying red spray paint from a Walmart in Fargo, North Dakota. He was wearing the same jacket as seen on surveillance video at the mosque, KVRR-TV reported.
Walmart spokesperson Beth Bruce said the company is aware of the employee’s actions. “Anytime we are able to help law enforcement, we are glad to do that,” she said.
The man has been booked into the Clay County Jail on possible charges of felony harassment and felony criminal damage to property, both with hate crime enhancers.
“We welcome the arrest in this troubling case, thank the investigators involved, and hope the swift apprehension of the alleged perpetrator sends a strong message to others who would contemplate engaging in bias-motivated crimes,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR-MN.
The vandalism was discovered Sunday morning on the outside of the Moorhead Fargo Islamic Community Center. Video surveillance from the building captured images of a suspect wearing a camouflage jacket and dark ski mask.
Members of the Moorhead and Fargo, North Dakota metropolitan area turned out with brushes, chemicals, and power washers Monday to help clean the mosque.
The mayors of four area cities issued a statement expressing their support for the Muslim community.
“Those criminal actions are completely contradictory to the values of tolerance, respect and acceptance we embrace in all of our communities,” the statement said. “The vandalism was a heinous act of hate attacking the center during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.”