DENVER (CBS4) – Police in Denver arrested a man near 30th Street and North Downing Street after reports of a man outside a mosque with a gun. The suspect ran away from the scene and officers caught up with him nearby.
Around 4:45 p.m., investigators said the man approached four people who were standing outside the mosque and pointed a long gun at them. Officers said the man made anti-Muslim remarks but did not fire the weapon.
“He clearly threatened some members of our community in a bias motivated fashion,” said Denver Police Division Chief Ron Thomas.
Witnesses said the suspect was belligerent.
“Saying intimidating and scary words, ‘I’m going to shoot you all, I’m going to light up this place.’ Just like… coming with the rifle and everyone runs away,” said the Mosque’s Imam Muhammad Kolila.
The man left the parking lot on foot but officers located him close by and took him into custody. Investigators said the suspect is known to officers and they are still searching for the weapon.
According to police, the suspect has a criminal history and appeared to be under the influence of a stimulant during his arrest. The Denver Police Department is working to obtain a search warrant of the suspect’s home, which is near the mosque.
“I think it is a troubling situation,” said Thomas. “We certainly have to provide safety and security for those populations that are targeted.”
No one was hurt during the encounter, but the Mosque’s Imam says this has left people there shaken.
“We are just like a peaceful community, a peaceful Muslim community just trying to worship freely,” Kolila told CBS4.
On Twitter, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock thanked police for their quick response and said Denver should be a safe haven for people of all religions.
Our worship centers should be a safe haven no matter what religion you practice. I want to thank @DenverPolice for acting swiftly to protect lives following tonight’s attempted attack on a Denver mosque. We stand with our Muslim community. This is not Denver.
— Michael B. Hancock (@MayorHancock) November 15, 2019
The Denver Police Department is increasing patrols around Denver mosques as a precaution. The incident comes nearly two weeks after the FBI announced an arrest in a foiled plot to bomb a synagogue in Pueblo.
“We have a pretty extensive history of paying attention to threats both locally and nationally that target the Jewish community and the Muslim community,” said Division Chief Thomas. “We are pretty good at making sure that we stay in touch with those communities.”
On Tuesday, the FBI released its annual Hate Crime Statistics Act report, finding hate crimes in Colorado increased 16% from 2017 to 2018. The data showed 123 hate crimes in Colorado in 2018. Of those, 16 were based on religion.