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Muslim advocacy group wants answers after targeted vandalism at Bloomington mosque

It happened at the Islamic Center of Bloomington, located near East Third Street and South High Street.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Bloomington police are investigating after a mosque was vandalized early Monday morning. 

It happened at around 1:15 a.m. at the Islamic Center of Bloomington, located near East Third Street and South High Street.

Leaders at the mosque called the damage "fairly extensive," and included destruction of picnic tables, HVAC equipment and fence panels. The Council on American-Islamic Relations obtained surveillance footage of the incident, showing a man dump trash onto the grass, break tables and damage equipment around the building.

Heather Akou has worshipped at the Islamic Center of Bloomington for 17 years and serves on the board of trustees.  

"This person was an adult,” said Akou. “He wasn't a kid. He doesn't appear to have been drunk or confused. He came with a flashlight. It seems like it was very premeditated. He knew exactly who he was targeting. And to me, all those signs point to it being a hate crime.” 

The air conditioning unit has been removed and the power turned off. But the rest of the damaged property is still strewn about the playground area. 

On Wednesday afternoon, Akou gave 13News a tour of the damage, which is all outside the building.

"This is a peaceful place where I come to worship,” said Akou. “I come to be with other Muslims. It sickens me to know that someone thinks so poorly of Muslims and would vandalize a faith community like this. It's just really disturbing. Every time something like this happens it makes people afraid. There have been times where, for months, I really questioned whether it was a good idea to come to the building."

Bloomington police said the suspect also broke one of the security cameras that points towards the playground and broke several toys that were in the playground before leaving at around 2 a.m.

Mosque officials released the following statement about the incident:

"This incident has sent chills down our collective community’s spine. We do not feel safe and feel that the threat, which we believe is a hate crime, has not been dealt with adequately. The lone perpetrator captured in security footage clearly targeted our mosque, not touching any other cars, property, or residences in the area. While we worry that inaction may send the wrong message to those who think we are low hanging fruit, we note that many allies have warmly reached out to us; we are so glad to be a part of the loving and supportive Bloomington community and look forward to spending many more years among you."

CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab said attacks of houses often happen because they represent a whole community instead of just an individual.

Mosque leaders said despite the video, the Bloomington Police Department hasn't taken the crime seriously and said officers suggested they clean up the damage and move on.

13News reached out to the police department for comment. Bloomington Police Capt. Ryan Pedigo said the police department is investigating and also asking the public for help identifying the suspect. 

"The Bloomington Police Department continues to investigate vandalism at the Islamic Center of Bloomington that occurred in the early morning hours of October 18th. A detective responded to the Center on the afternoon of the 18th to continue the investigation and spoke with the Center's President. The detective was able to get video and photographs of the suspect from the Center's surveillance cameras. Further, the detective utilized buccal swabs in an effort to collect DNA evidence left behind by the suspect. These swabs will be sent to the Indiana State Police laboratory for analysis to determine if they contain identifying DNA."

Anyone with information about the crime, or who may be able to identify the suspect caught on security footage, is being asked to call Detective John Alberson at (812)339-4477.

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