A vandal targeted the Islamic Center of Fort Collins early Sunday morning. (Coloradoan News)
Shattered glass littered the carpet of the center’s prayer room, and outdoor furniture was overturned.
When people arrived for the first prayer of the day about 5:30 a.m., they found the scene, said President of the Islamic Center Tawfik AboEllail. They found several large rocks that had been thrown through glass doors and into the prayer room, as well as a Bible that had been thrown through the broken glass.
AboEllail said he reviewed the center’s security footage and identified a man whom he estimated to be in his mid-20s. The man tried to break into the center using a screwdriver and then increasingly large rocks, AboEllail said. The man threw several rocks through the glass with such force that they left scuff marks on the wood paneling on the other side of the prayer room.
The man also jammed the legs of a chair into the handles of one of the center’s outer doors, AboEllail said.
“Anything he could get a hold of, he wanted to damage,” AboEllail said. “Thank god he didn’t burn the building down.”
Less than 24 hours before the vandalism occurred, the center hosted a “Know Your Rights and Duties” forum for the community. The event featured a panel of community representatives, including Fort Collins Chief of Police John Hutto.
AboEllail said he was disappointed with what he described as a “lukewarm” response by Fort Collins Police Services to the incident. The call for the vandalism came in about 5:40 a.m., but AboEllail said FCPS responded after 7 a.m.
Hutto condemned the incident on Twitter, though, calling it “unacceptable” and urging people with information to contact the department.
FCPS officer Dustin Wier said that a multitude of factors affect response time, including officer availability, call traffic and imminence of danger. He declined to provide specifics about Sunday morning’s call.
The department has assigned a detective to the investigation, which is ongoing. The incident has not been identified as a bias-motivated crime, though Wier said nothing is ruled out.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Fort Collins Police Services.
AboEllail said the center will have to look into hiring a security agency for tighter surveillance moving forward.
“Nobody is safe anymore,” he said.
After seeing the damage, Rabbi Hillel Katzir of Temple Or Hadash, began organizing a rally in support of the Fort Collins Muslim community. The rally will take place at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Islamic Center of Fort Collins, 925 Lake St.
“As a Rabbi, I’m particularly sensitive to this,” he said. “An attack on a house of worship, any house of worship, is an attack on all houses of worship. If we let this one go, if we don’t respond, who’s next?”
Dozens of congregants from the Plymouth Congregational Church, led by senior minister Hal Chorpenning, visited the center as well after their 11 a.m. service.
A GoFundMe has also been established to cover the costs of the damage, as well as security updates.
“We belong here,” AboEllail said. “Please do something about it. Not a year later; we need something now.”