A 23-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of committing a hate crime and arson in connection with a fire at a California mosque.
Carl James Dial Jr, of Palm Desert, was arrested late on Friday and faces charges of committing arson, a hate crime and burglary, Riverside County sheriff’s Capt Andrew Shouse said Saturday in a statement.
Flames were reported just after noon Friday at the Islamic Center of Palm Springs. The fire was contained to the small building’s front lobby, and no one was injured.
People at the mosque described hearing a “loud boom” and seeing flames, said Reymundo Nour, the mosque’s acting imam, who was not on the site at the time. He said the mosque had been “firebombed.”
Authorities provided no details on how the fire was set.
The mosque is about 75 miles (120km) from San Bernardino, where this month a married couple who federal officials say was inspired by Islamist extremists killed 14 people.
Some Muslims in Southern California and beyond have worried about the potential for reprisals, while leaders of various faiths have called for tolerance.
County and city officials have condemned the fire.
“We see this as a cowardly act of vandalism that we will not tolerate in our community,” Coachella mayor Steven Hernandez said.