ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A surveillance camera caught video of a female employee suspected of purposely setting a fire to the Colorado Muslim Society in Arapahoe County.
The building on South Parker Road contains a mosque and a classroom, and is considered a holy place of worship. Employees are now in fear after an arsonist targeted the building in what they call a hate crime.
Surveillance video from May 8 shows a woman in traditional Muslim garb walking through an upstairs prayer area. She makes several trips to the stairwell off camera, at one point carrying a bag. Minutes later the fire alarm goes off.
“We have to know who tried to destroy our organization,” said office manager Kamal Hassan.
He said he has no doubt the fire was designed to send a message.
“It is a hate crime because you are harming the community of the Muslims,” said Hassan.
Arapahoe County fire crews quickly extinguished the flames after finding a burning book, doused with some type of accelerant, in the stairwell. Witnesses saw a woman running from the scene.
Hassan said the apparent attack has shocked the Muslim community.
“We are a peaceful community and we want everyone to come and worship in peace,” he said.
The sheriff’s office said it’s too early to classify the fire as a hate crime, but they’re not ruling anything out.
As the investigation begins, a security guard, who asked not to be identified, said he and his community want answers, “We need to find who did this and why and we wish to bring to justice.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Department or Crimestoppers.