Man accused of hate crime, arson in California mosque fire

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Fire at California Mosque


COACHELLA, Calif. (AP) — A 23-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of committing a hate crime and arson in connection with a Southern California mosque fire.

Carl James Dial Jr., of Palm Desert, was arrested late Friday and faces charges of committing arson, a hate crime and burglary, Riverside County sheriff's Capt. Andrew Shouse Saturday said in a statement. On Friday night, authorities said they had detained a person of interest, but declined to give details.

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Flames were reported just after noon Friday at the Islamic Center of Palm Springs. The fire was contained to the small building's front lobby, and no one was injured.

People at the mosque described hearing a "loud boom" and seeing flames, said Reymundo Nour, the mosque's acting imam, who was not on the site at the time. He said the mosque had been "firebombed."

Authorities provided no details on how the fire was set.

State fire investigators, the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI are assisting in the investigation.

Photos from the scene of the fire:

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Man accused of hate crime, arson in California mosque fire
Police tape marks off the burned front lobby of the Islamic Center of Palm Springs in Coachella, Calif., on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015. Flames were reported just after noon on Friday. The fire was contained to the small building's front lobby, and no one was injured. (AP Photo/David Martin)
A security guard sits in a car outside the burned front lobby of the Islamic Center of Palm Springs in Coachella, Calif., on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015. Flames were reported just after noon on Friday. The fire was contained to the small building's front lobby, and no one was injured. (AP Photo/David Martin)
Police tape marks off the burned front lobby of the Islamic Center of Palm Springs in Coachella, Calif., on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015. Flames were reported just after noon on Friday. The fire was contained to the small building's front lobby, and no one was injured. (AP Photo/David Martin)
In this image made from video provided by KMIR-TV, firefighters battle flames at the Islamic Center of Palm Springs, a mosque in Coachella, Calif., just east of Palm Springs, early Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. The fire was contained to the small building's front lobby, and no one was injured. Its cause is under investigation. (KMIR-TV via AP) TV OUT. MANDATORY CREDIT
This Friday, Dec. 11, 2015 law enforcement booking photo provided by the Riverside County, Calif., Sheriff's Department shows Carl James Dial Jr. Dial, 23, of Palm Desert Calif., was arrested Friday on suspicion of starting a fire earlier in the day at the Islamic Center of Palm Springs, a mosque in Coachella, Calif. (Riverside County Sheriff's Department via AP)
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The mosque is about 75 miles from San Bernardino, where last week a couple who federal officials say were inspired by Islamist extremists killed 14 people. Some Muslims in Southern California and beyond have worried about the potential for reprisals, while leaders of various faiths have called for tolerance.

In a statement released Friday evening, U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, whose district includes the area in which the mosque is located, called on authorities to investigate the blaze as a possible hate crime.

"Our faith in humanity will not be intimidated," he said. "And we stand together against any form (of) violence towards the innocent."

County and city officials also condemned the attack.

"We see this as a cowardly act of vandalism that we will not tolerate in our community," Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez said.

The mosque was hit by gunfire in November 2014 in what authorities investigated as a possible hate crime. No one was hurt in the early morning incident. The case remains under investigation, and no arrests have been made.

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