Coachella Mosque Arson Arrest: Carl James Dial Jr Charged With Hate Crime, Burglary

Carl James Dial Jr. of Palm Desert, California has been charged with burglary, arson, and a hate crime for a midday Friday firebomb attack of the Islamic Center of Palm Springs, a Coachella mosque, according to CP 24. It’s not the first time this mosque has been targeted either.

The 23-year-old was reportedly taken into custody on Country Club Drive by authorities with Riverside County at about 9 p.m. Friday evening, and is being held in lieu of bail set at $150,000 for his suspected role in the Coachella mosque fire, according to the Desert Sun.

In total, Carl James Dial Jr. has been charged with two counts of arson, one of commission of a hate crime, one of maliciously starting a fire, and one of second-degree burglary.

Dial is reportedly being held in Indio in the Riverside Country Jail and is expected to appear at the Larson Justice Center in court on Wednesday, December 16.

Members of the Coachella mosque community were said to be unfamiliar with Carl James Dial Jr. after viewing his mugshot. The group was described as being “confused” that such a thing could happen in the “quiet, accepting” area.

“If someone tells you to hate someone, you need to say, ‘Why?’ and not just hate them,” Muslim mosque member K. Sadiq was quoted at an overnight vigil held at the Islamic Center of Palm Springs.

“I just need to pray,” another, unnamed member of the mosque was quoted.

The Coachella mosque fire occurred in the wake of shootings in San Bernardino last week that killed 14 and injured 22. Several mosques have been the targets of vandalism and fires since the San Bernardino attacks, which were carried out by Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, occurred. The Muslim husband and wife were believed to have become radicalized by ISIS propaganda. The investigation into their case and the people connected to them continues.

Following the shootings, individuals claiming to be affiliated with ISIS claimed responsibility for the San Bernardino attacks, according to the Inqusitr. San Bernardino is located about 75 miles from the Coachella mosque that Carl James Dial Jr. has been accused of firebombing.

People were reportedly praying inside the Coachella mosque when Carl James Dial Jr. threw some type of incendiary device into the front door. The front lobby, doorway, and ablution area of the 1,800-square foot mosque were said to be heavily damaged, while other areas received more minor smoke damage.

Members of the mosque were reportedly praying when they heard an explosion and saw the lobby burst into flames with Dial’s arson attempt. All of the members of the congregation were reportedly evacuated safely.

“A person of interest was quickly identified and was subsequently located and detained pending further investigation,” read a statement from the Riverside County Sheriff’s office. Police “believed this was an intentional act potentially resulting in a hate crime, and utilized all available resources in an attempt to identify and locate the suspect.”

Investigators with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined the Riverside Country authorities in their investigation of the hate crime, burglary, and arson Friday night.

Five gunshots were fired at the Islamic Center of Palm Springs during an early morning prayer service in November 2014. A reward of $12,000 has been offered, but investigators are said to still be no closer to identifying a suspect.

Abdullah Salaam of the Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley spoke about his faith after the 2014 shooting.

“We’re a peaceful people,” Salaam was quoted, explaining that Islam teaches tolerance, not violence. “If you want to know what we’re doing, come on down.”

[Riverside County Sheriff’s Department via AP]