The suspect, a homeless man, has been arrested 50 times in Washington and has been convicted of three felonies — malicious mischief and assault — and 21 misdemeanors.
A homeless man suspected of setting fire to a Bellevue mosque early Saturday morning was charged with second-degree arson Tuesday by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Bail was set at $1 million.
Isaac Wayne Wilson, 37, who has an extensive history of mental illness and property damage, was found in a parking lot behind the Islamic Center of Eastside, staring at the fire, according to charging documents. When approached by police, he calmly said, “I did it,” the documents say.
A man with clothing matching Wilson’s was also seen on the mosque security cameras approaching the northeast corner of the building at 2:38 a.m. Saturday with a plastic jug. Moments later, smoke and large flames obscure the camera view, according to the charging papers.
No one was injured in the blaze, but it destroyed about half of the two-story wooden structure in the Lake Hills neighborhood, said Lt. Ryan Armstrong, spokesman for the Bellevue Fire Department. The 1978 building was valued at $1.2 million in 2016, according to county property records.
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Police have said there’s no indication that the fire was a hate crime or related to terrorism. Wilson has previously been charged in connection with a July altercation at the mosque.
On Tuesday, people left flowers, balloons and written words of support on the sidewalk outside the burned mosque. One sign said, “We stand UNITED with our Muslim neighbors.” A globe, encircled with red-paper hearts, bore messages including, “We’re better together.” A Bellevue police cruiser was parked in front.
Sunday night, about 500 community members packed an auditorium at Sammamish High School to show their support and learn more from police and city leaders about the crime.
“The outpouring from the community is tremendous,” said Mayor John Stokes. He said the city, the Bellevue School District and a number of churches are trying to identify an alternate worship site for the mosque, where about 1,000 people pray each Friday.
An online funding site has raised almost $250,000 toward a $500,000 goal to help rebuild the mosque.
Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett said he told Muslim community members they would rebuild the mosque with the community’s help “bigger, better and bolder.”
Mylett attended Friday prayers at the mosque shortly after becoming chief in 2015 and said the police department has held active-shooter training for members as well as a recent safety forum on crime prevention, hate crimes and enforcement of immigration laws.
“It’s really important to build those relationships before something terrible happens. When we responded to the fire, it was not as strangers but as friends,” Mylett said.
According to court records, Wilson has been arrested 50 times in Washington and has been convicted of three felonies — malicious mischief and assault — and 21 misdemeanors.
In July, Wilson disrupted prayers at the mosque and had to be escorted out by worshippers. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct.
His probation officer told the court in December that Wilson suffered from “serious mental-health issues.” The report said he was “currently receiving medications” but that they do not “completely eliminate the audio hallucinations and he still hears voices.”
The report also said Wilson has camped under a Bellevue overpass for several years and has not been able to stay in a shelter because of his behavior.
The arson comes as the city of Bellevue is considering locating a permanent men’s homeless shelter in the Eastgate neighborhood. Some neighbors have objected to the location, saying it could attract crime and endanger residents and students at nearby Bellevue College.
Service providers in Bellevue say that Wilson had dropped in several times at a day center run by Congregations for the Homeless, which also operates a winter shelter and a permanent men’s shelter that rotates through a dozen city churches.
“Our philosophy is to try to get to know the men. Our outreach worker said he (Wilson) wouldn’t acknowledge his greeting. He wasn’t responsive at all. He said he had untreated schizophrenia.” said David Bowling, executive director of Congregations for the Homeless.
Bowling said the hope for the proposed permanent men’s shelter is that it would have the space to bring in mental-health professionals and offer treatment.
“A mental-health provider might have seen the warning signs,” Bowling said.
In June, Wilson was charged with malicious mischief for breaking a window at NikeTown in downtown Seattle.
According to a police report of the incident, Wilson told an officer he broke the window “as a means to go to jail” to be safe from people who were trying to kill him. He failed to appear for a hearing in King County Superior Court on Jan. 11, and a judge issued an arrest warrant.