Investigators have arrested a middle-aged man and are now searching for a woman after the pair allegedly stole and vandalized religious items at a Mountlake Terrace mosque on Tuesday, a police spokesman said.
The incident, which was captured on video surveillance, occurred about 4 p.m. Tuesday, when the two allegedly walked into the Masjid Umar Al-Farooq Mosque on 238th Street Southwest, Mountlake Terrace Police Commander Pat Lowe said.
The mosque was open to the public at the time, Lowe said, but the pair walked into restricted areas, where they allegedly broke into cabinets and searched for valuables. The two then took some prayer rugs and Qurans, stuffed them into a garbage bag, and threw them into a nearby dumpster outside, Lowe said.
A man in his 50s was later arrested and booked into the Snohomish County Jail, Lowe said. The woman, described as in her late 40s or early 50s, remains at large. Police have distributed a still photo of the female suspect taken from the mosque’s security footage.
The incident comes eight days after someone is believed to have set a fire to the Islamic Center of Tacoma, extensively damaging that mosque. In September, a Sikh temple in Federal Way, the Gurmat Khalsa Center, also was ransacked and burglarized.
Washington’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in a statement Wednesday, called for police to investigate Tuesday’s incident as a hate crime.
“This was a disturbing incident not only marked by a burglary, but by a hateful display by throwing Qurans and other religious items in a dumpster,” CAIR-Washington Executive Director Imraan Siddiqi said. “Our houses of worship should be places where our communities can come together and feel safe, rather than having to see this hateful string of incidents across our state this past month.”
Mosque officials, who Lowe said were still assessing the damage, did not immediately return a phone call Wednesday.
Lowe said investigators aren’t excluding the possibility that Tuesday’s burglary was a hate crime or an offense motivated by bias that can carry with it harsher penalties.
“It’s so early in the investigation, it’s hard to call it a hate crime, or bias-based crime, at this point,” he said. “We don’t have anything that says that now, but we’re not ruling that out.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Lowe at 425-744-6242 or PLowe@mltwa.gov.