Police arrest man suspected of vandalizing Bloomington mosque

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UPDATE:

Police arrested 32-year-old Adam L. Walls Thursday morning for allegedly vandalizing the Islamic Center of Bloomington.

The Bloomington Police Department said an officer reviewed the footage and suggested to detectives that the suspect could be Walls, who the officer was familiar with from previous “calls for service.” Detectives found Walls in the early morning hours near the Shalom Center in the 600 block of S. Walnut Street. After interviewing him, authorities took Walls to the Monroe County Jail, where he faces a felony charge of institutional criminal mischief.

Records show Wells has a history of criminal mischief.

ORIGINAL STORY:

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Bloomington Police Department are attempting to identify a suspect caught on camera vandalizing the Islamic Center of Bloomington.

Police said the vandalism occurred in the early morning hours of Monday, Oct. 18.

The footage obtained by police shows what appears to be a white male with short hair and layered clothing entering the playground area of the Center at approximately 1:13 a.m. The man can be seen in the footage damaging several picnic tables and dumping trash cans over.

A photo of the suspect caught on camera

“What level of rage does someone have to have to cause that level of damage, this is a sturdy fence,” said Islamic Center spokesperson Heather Akaou.  “I can’t really imagine, and honestly don’t want to know what was running through his mind.”

Police said the man is also on camera breaking metal fencing, damaging an air conditioning unit, breaking a security camera and breaking several toys that were in the playground area before finally leaving around 2 a.m.

“I do not think it was an accident that the Islamic Center was targeted,” said Islamic Center spokesperson Heather Akaou.  “None of the other surrounding cars or buildings were targeted.”

“I do think it was a hate crime,” Akou continued.  “I hope not, maybe he had some other motive, but I really don’t think so.”

The Monroe County Prosecutors office said Wednesday it is too early to tell if the vandalism will be considered a hate crime.  However, that will be considered once a suspect is in custody and prosecutors are able to review the case.

Anyone with information about the crime, or who may know the identity of the suspect, is asked to call Detective John Alberson at (812) 339-4477.

The following statement is attributed to the Islamic Center of Bloomington:

“This incident has sent chills down our collective community’s spine. We do not feel safe and feel that the threat, which we believe is a hate crime, has not been dealt with adequately.  The lone perpetrator captured in security footage clearly targeted our mosque, not touching any other cars, property, or residences in the area. While we worry that inaction may send the wrong message to those who think we are low hanging fruit, we note that many allies have warmly reached out to us; we are so glad to be a part of the loving and supportive Bloomington community and look forward to spending many more years among you.” 

Bloomington Police say they are actively investigating and searching for the perpetrator.

“A detective responded to the Center on the afternoon of the 18th to continue the investigation and spoke with the Center’s President,” Bloomington Police Captain Brian Pedigo said in an email.  “The detective was able to get video and photographs of the suspect from the Center’s surveillance cameras.”

Further, the detective utilized buccal swabs in an effort to collect DNA evidence left behind by the suspect,” Pedigo continued.  “These swabs will be sent to the Indiana State Police laboratory for analysis to determine if they contain identifying DNA.”

Bloomington police stated swaps for DNA evidence have been collected from the site and are being sent to a lab for testing.

The Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, (CAIR-Chicago), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, stated mosque vandalisms have increased since 2016 in the US and are often motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.

CAIR-Chicago also released the following statement:

“Houses of worship are often targeted because they represent a community, not an individual. It is beyond me how a police department can conclusively determine the motive of the crime without a full and proper investigation that includes detectives, fingerprinting, an arrest, an exploration of the perpetrators background, and interviews.

“Premature speculation that this is some run-of-the-mill fluke by a well-meaning inebriated person is an insult and a cop out, no pun intended. So is the excuse that they are too busy to do so. We are never too busy to pay our share of taxes. We expect and demand better from the police department and the city. Law enforcement authorities must conduct a swift investigation with seriousness and urgency.”  

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