UPDATED: Arson at future Islamic Center site 'takes it to a whole new level'
UPDATE: 1 P.M.One piece of construction equipment at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was set afire in the overnight hours while others had gasoline poured on them, according to a spokesperson for the ICM.
Carmie Ayash, spokeswoman for the ICM, told The DNJ Islamic Center officials were contacted by the sheriff’s department around 1:30 a.m. Saturday in reference to the damaged equipment. It appeared gasoline had been poured on several pieces of equipment at the site and one was lit afire. Ayash said it appeared the responsible arsonist was spooked during the act and fled the scene before other equipment could be set on fire.
“We were contacted by police department around 1:30 a.m,” Ayash said Saturday afternoon. “They said someone had caught fire to some of the equipment. I think they lifted the hood and poured gas into the hood and set it on fire.
“The other equipment had gasoline poured on it but was not set on fire. It seems like it was intentional. Probably, whoever did it got caught in the middle of the act, got scared and left.”
Authorities working the scene did not specify whether gasoline or some other accelerant was used to start the fire.
Islamic Center officials have contacted the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, according to Ayash, and sheriff’s department investigators “told us they will be investigating this as a hate crime.” Ayash later said sheriff’s officials “asked her to correct her statement,” adding they plan to explore several different motives while investigating the arson.
Ayash said the most recent vandalism to the site “takes it to a whole new level.” The site has already been the target of two other vandalisms, both aimed at a sign marking the future site.
“Everyone in our community no longer feels safe,” she said. “To set a fire that could have blown up equipment and, God forbid, spread and caused damage to the neighbors there ... we really feel like this is something that we and the neighbors don’t deserve. When they (ICM officials) called me this morning I started crying.
Ayash said it appears the intention of the arsonist was to scare members of the Islamic community and she added the arsonist has succeeded.”
The spokeswoman told The DNJ that Islamic Center officials have tried, unsuccessfully, to contact construction company, Ole South Properties, Inc., about the arson to its equipment.
“They did hurt the construction company,” Ayash said. “It’s not hurting us. It did put us in a fearful state, so they did accomplish that. I don’t understand where this is coming from.”
Check back at dnj.com throughout the day for more on this developing story.
— Mark Bell, 615-278-5153
An apparent case of arson to construction equipment at the site of the future Islamic Center of Murfreesboro is under investigation at this hour by fire investigators from the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office and employees of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Sheriff’s department Lt. Randy Groce, who was at the site on Veals Road at Bradyville Pike Saturday morning, told The Daily News Journal that it was unclear “exactly what we’ve got here,” and declined further comment until more facts can be gathered. It is unclear whether the RCSO or ATF will lead the investigation at this point, he added.
Crime scene tape surrounded several pieces of construction equipment at the site around 10:30 a.m. Investigators, including arson investigator Groce, remained at the scene.
The current site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, located near the intersection of South Church Street and Middle Tennessee Boulevard, was closed when a Daily News Journal reporter went there to seek comment on the matter. No one from the center could be immediately reached via telephone this morning.
Check back at DNJ.com throughout the day for more on this developing story.
— Mark Bell, 615-278-5153