Grand Junction police are looking for a man they say vandalized a local mosque's sign late Tuesday.
The Two Rivers Mosque's video surveillance system caught a man spray painting "nondescript designs" on the house of worship's new sign and destroying the flower bed around it, according to police spokesperson Heidi Davidson.
"Right now, he only damaged the sign, but we worry it might go further, that he might come or somebody else might come here and hurt one of us," said Abdelghani Essaifi, vice president of the Islamic Center of Grand Junction.
Essaifi was the first to discover the vandalism when he came in to work on Wednesday morning. He first thought someone had left flowers at the mosque but then discovered a ripped up flowerbed and the spray painted sign.
"I see the news and I've seen it happen all over the United States so I was not really shocked about it," Essaifi said, "but I was surprised because this is such a wonderful community. The neighbors are very nice and this neighborhood is very peaceful. I was not expecting for this to happen at all."
The mosque has been in its current location for about two years, but the Islamic center that runs it wanted to wait to advertise it outside the building until they felt comfortable in the area, according to Essaifi.
"We did not want to put [up] a sign until we see how neighbors react to this place," he said. "They showed love and kindness."
Essaifi said they only recently decided to put up a sign. It was not even 3 weeks old at the time of the incident.
The police are currently investigating the crime as defacement of property and criminal mischief, not as a hate crime. Davidson said it is reasonable to assume this was a targeted crime, but police have not yet collected sufficient evidence of bias against the mosque or the people there.
According to Essaifi, video surveillance was too dark to make out the man's face or the type of car he was driving. Grand Junction police posted images from the video on their website in the hopes someone in the community can provide more information on the suspect.
"I don't think this incident is going to have any negative impact on people here because this community is very open and very nice," Essaifi said. He said more than 50 people came to the center Wednesday to show support.
A community fundraising effort has already raised more than what the mosque needs to clean the sign, Essaifi said. They cleaned off the black spray paint Thursday. The center plans to use the rest of the money to put up lights outside.
The members of the center will be discussing additional security measures when they gather for Friday prayer.
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