DENVER (Reuters) - Investigators in Colorado arrested on Monday a man suspected of throwing a “biblical text” inside a mosque after smashing windows and a glass door of the Islamic center and overturning furniture inside, police said.
Joseph Giaquinto, 35, was taken into custody and accused of criminal mischief, trespassing and a bias-motivated crime at the Fort Collins Islamic Center on Sunday, the Fort Collins Police Department said in a statement.
Police Chief John Hutto said the incident had a “very real impact” on the city’s Muslim community.
“We will not tolerate acts of hatred in our community, and I hope this arrest sends that message loud and clear,” Hutto said in a statement. “While the building can be repaired, this incident caused deeper hurt that won’t just go away.”
Security footage showed a man kicking an exterior door at the center at about 4 a.m. local time on Sunday. The suspect overturned benches, broke windows and threw a biblical text into the building, police said.
Fort Collins is a city of about 160,000 people about 60 miles (96 km) north of Denver and is home to the flagship campus of Colorado State University.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, (CAIR), called for a federal hate-crimes investigation into the incident.
“Because of the use of a Bible in the vandalism, we would urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate the possibility of a bias motive for this attack on a house of worship,” a spokesman for the Muslim advocacy group said in a statement.
CAIR said it had documented 34 cases of mosques vandalized in at least 12 states since the start of the year. The group said the attacks were “part of an unprecedented spike in anti-Muslim incidents nationwide that began during the recent presidential campaign and accelerated following the November 8 election.”
Editing by Steve Gorman, Peter Cooney and Paul Tait