DENVER (CBS4) – Newly-released surveillance video obtained by CBS4 seems to show Benjamin Casillas-Rocha the moments before he was arrested for a potential hate crime. Casillas-Rocha, 24, is being held on investigation of felony menacing after reportedly waving a gun and making threats outside of a Denver mosque.
Investigators said Casillas-Rocha was the man who was on some sort of drug when he approached four people late Thursday afternoon, who were standing outside Masjid Al-Shuhada Downtown Denver Islamic Center at 2952 North Downing Street, and pointed a weapon at them.
Denver Police Division Chief Ron Thomas said the suspect made anti-Muslim comments “in a bias motivated fashion.” Casillas-Rocha pointed, but didn’t fire the gun, and ran away before officers took him into custody.
Denver police say while executing a search warrant, an airsoft assault rifle matching the description of the weapon used in the incident was recovered. Final charges will come from the Denver District Attorney’s Office.
Worship resumed as normal at the Downtown Denver Islamic Center on Friday, which is a holy day for Muslims, a day filled with prayer.
“From this disturbance we become stronger,” said the mosque’s Imam, Muhammad Kolila.
“I grant you the most significant thing that any person can have, is safety,” he said.
In his message to followers, the Imam encouraged them to come together in peace and brotherhood with all worshipers, regardless of their faith.
“Our job as Muslims is to protect other places of worship and to stand out for any place of worship because a place of worship is dedicated mainly to bring the people closer to Allah,” he said.
Outside, Denver police provided added security and a group representing many faiths rallied to show support.
“I see a lot of people coming here, a lot of community and police officers, they are coming to support us, that is so awesome, to see all people come together is awesome,” said worshipper Amadou Deh.
“It’s wonderful to see so many people from different faith traditions who came here to support us and to show solidarity,” said Ismail Akbulut, from the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation.
“We hope that we can get together as people of different faith traditions and live in peaceful coexistence in our State,” said Akbulut.
The Denver Jewish Community released a statement saying they are deeply disturbed by the alleged threats made by Casillas-Rocha and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office said they will be announcing a new public-private partnership with the Colorado Coalition Against Hate on Monday to address hate crimes in Colorado.
No one was hurt during Thursday’s encounter, but the Mosque’s Imam told CBS4 the incident left people there totally shaken.
The Denver Police Department increased patrols at mosques around Denver as a precaution.