Inside Job: ‘Hate Crime’ Narrative Interrupted; Man Charged with Setting Houston Mosque Afire Turns Out To Be a Devout AttendeePosted: December 30, 2015
Carol Christian and Leah Binkovitz report: A Houston man has been arrested in connection with a suspected arson at a mosque on Christmas Day, but the motive for the crime remains a mystery, with the suspect maintaining he was a regular at the mosque.
“Moore told investigators at the scene that he has attended the storefront mosque for five years, coming five times.”
A spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed that the suspect, 37-year-old Gary Nathaniel Moore of Houston, was arrested early Wednesday. Moore appeared in court at 7 a.m., spokeswoman Nicole Strong said, and bond was set at $100,000.
According to a charging instrument released by the Harris County District Clerk, Moore told investigators at the scene that he has attended the storefront mosque for five years, coming five times per day to pray seven days per week.
“Using surveillance video from multiple businesses nearby, investigators were able to identify Moore, according to records.”
Moore said he had been at the mosque earlier on Dec. 25 to pray, and had left at about 2 p.m. to go home, according to authorities and court papers. Moore said he was the last person to leave the mosque and saw no smoke or other signs of fire when he departed, authorities said. He maintained he had returned to the scene after hearing about the fire from a friend.
“A search warrant of his home was conducted, and investigators recovered a backpack and clothing similar to that which was seen in surveillance footage, as well as half of a two-pack of charcoal lighter-fluid bottles that seemed to match another lighter fluid bottle found inside the mosque.”
MJ Khan, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, which operates the mosque, said he was unfamiliar with Moore. “We are just looking into it ourselves,” he said Wednesday morning after learning of the arrest.
“We are really very surprised and saddened by this whole thing,” said Khan.
Using surveillance video from multiple businesses nearby, investigators were able to identify Moore, according to records. A search warrant of his home was conducted, and investigators recovered a backpack and clothing similar to that which was seen in surveillance footage, as well as half of a two-pack of charcoal lighter-fluid bottles that seemed to match another lighter fluid bottle found inside the mosque.
A team of 30 investigators worked around the clock investigating the cause of the fire, which was found to have multiple points of origin. Moore was even interviewed by investigators at the mosque the day of the fire. He had attended services there earlier that day, according to Ruben Hernandez, chief arson investigator with the city’s fire department.
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, according to Hernandez. Moore was charged with first-degree arson, a felony. A motive has not been determined.
“We view arson as a violent crime,” said Robert Elder, special agent with the Houston field division of the ATF, adding that arson is not just an attack on a building but “an attack on the community.”
Many of the details were still subject to investigation, including the substance used to set the fire, according to Hernandez, who said the district attorney’s office has taken over the investigation…(read more)
Source: Houston Chronicle