Arson attempt caught on video at Muslim community center: 'We're hoping somebody ... can recognize him'

Posted at 10:00 AM, Apr 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-25 12:51:50-04

AUSTIN, TX — Investigators in Austin, Texas, are still searching for the man who was caught on camera attempting to set a Muslim community center on fire.

The suspect was captured on security video at about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday going through a fence, "pouring what appears to be gasoline on the side of the building and then attempting to light the pieces of paper on fire," Austin Fire Capt. Andy Reardon said at a news conference Wednesday. The suspect then tried to throw the paper on the North Austin Muslim Community Center, Reardon said.

It appears he was at the center for about 20 or 30 minutes, Reardon said.

At about 6:30 a.m., fire crews were called due to an odor of gasoline and investigators then found crumpled up, burned pieces of paper in a field near the building, Reardon said.

"We are working vigilantly with law enforcement to apprehend the perpetrator," the community center said in a Facebook post Wednesday. "As a Muslim community, we stand against all acts of violence against sanctified places of worship: whether it be against a church, a mosque, a synagogue, or a temple. "

"We will continue to be vigilant as a community to keep the Masjid and its congregants safe," the center continued. "We are undeterred and will continue to worship and serve. "

Austin police have stepped up patrols in the area, Reardon said.

Authorities are looking to pursue a minimum charge of attempted arson, a second-degree felony, Reardon said.

The suspect tried to disguise his face as he reached the cameras, Reardon said.

"We're hoping somebody in the public can recognize him and come forward," Reardon said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Crimestoppers Tip Line at 512-472-8477 (TIPS).