The Houston mosque fire on Christmas 2015 has resulted in the arrest of a man who allegedly prayed there every day.
Police detained a suspect they identified as Gary Nathaniel Moore, aka Jamal Moore, 37, early this morning on a first-degree felony charge of arson for allegedly setting the fire at the Savoy Masjid mosque on the afternoon of December 25. Authorities previously deemed the fire suspicious and that it had multiple points of origin.
“Despite the suspect being of the Muslim faith, some are still calling for an increased police presence at the city’s dozens of mosques,”ABC News Houston affiliate KTRK reported.
About 80 Houston firefighters responded to the two-alarm blaze at the storefront mosque, which is located at a local strip mall in the largest city in Texas. No one was injured in the fire, fortunately.
While indicating that a motive for the alleged arson was unknown, an ATF official declared that “there’s no evidence that it was a hate crime.”
Added a Houston Fire Department arson investigator, “There’s no motive that’s clear to us right now. Nothing’s been revealed. He was a member of that mosque. He was there for several years,” KTRK recited.
According to the probable cause affidavit by the Houston Fire Department, the suspect was interviewed at the scene on Christmas Day and indicated that the was a member of the mosque for about five years and prayed there five times a day, seven days a week. He also told the investigator that he was the last person to leave the mosque at about 2 p.m. and that there was no signs of smoke or fire at that time.
In the immediate aftermath of the fire, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for an investigation by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies into a “possible bias motive” in the Houston mosque fire. “Because of the recent spike in hate incidents targeting mosques nationwide, we urge law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for this fire,” said the CAIR-Houston executive director on December 25.
Surveillance cameras from two nearby businesses reportedly showed the suspect leaving the mosque shortly before the fire broke out. Cops executed a search warrant at his Houston home yesterday morning which “yielded a backpack and clothing which matched the suspect in the surveillance videos. Investigators also recovered a lighter fluid bottle which matched one recovered at the scene,” The Daily Caller explained.
According to the Houston Chronicle, 30 detectives worked the alleged arson case 24-7 since Christmas Day, culminating in the arrest. “After collecting evidence, reviewing surveillance video and executing a search warrant, the fire department’s arson bureau and the ATF made a joint arrest around 1:30 am Wednesday at Moore’s house, where he lives with his wife and kids,” the city’s chief arson investigator told the Chronicle.
With regard to whether the suspect was a devout attendee at the mosque, “MJ Khan, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, confirmed at a press conference Wednesday afternoon that Moore did attend prayer services there, but added, ‘I wouldn’t call him a regular,'” NBC News detailed.
Khan also remarked that “We are really very surprised and saddened by this whole thing,” noting that the mosque was the recipient of flowers and donations as well as other forms of support locally as well as from other parts of the country.
Gary Nathaniel Moore is being held on $100,000 bond and is due in court tomorrow morning.
The FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics for the year 2014 indicate that approximately 178 instances of anti-Muslim religious bias occurred last year, while about 635 anti-Jewish bias offenses took place in the same time frame
Breitbart News claimed that several national news organizations originally seemed quick to blame the fire on Islamophobia or even the controversial rhetoric of Donald Trump or other Republican presidential hopefuls.
Unrelated to the Houston mosque fire, news outlets have reported on several hate crime hoaxes in the last few months.
[Photo by Bob Levey/AP]