Police are investigating a fire at a California mosque as an arson and possible hate crime after a note was discovered that mentioned the recent shootings at two New Zealand mosques, authorities said.
Escondido police and fire authorities received a call around 3:15 a.m. Sunday about a fire at the Islamic Center of Escondido, north of San Diego, said Escondido police Lt. Chris Lick, a department spokesman told CNN affiliate KGTV. Several people in the mosque came outside and extinguished the fire before authorities arrived, Lick said. The fire damaged the exterior of the building, police said.
The note was found in the area of the mosque parking lot, Lick said. Police don’t have a suspect, he said.
“At this time, we’re just going to leave it as it was a reference to the New Zealand shooting,” he said.
Escondido police have been doing extra patrols in the area since the shootings at the mosques on March 15 in Christchurch, New Zealand, according to Lick.
New Zealand officials said a self-avowed white supremacist killed 50 people at Al Noor and Lindwood mosques in Christchurch.
“Everybody should remain absolutely vigilant and watchful over their prayer centers,” Lick said
Yusef Miller, a member of Escondido’s Islamic community, encouraged fellow Muslims “to make sure you’re hypervigilant.”
“It was especially alarming to have it happen this morning, and everybody is on edge here today,” Miller said. “Given what’s been going on around the nation, around the world, we’re not too surprised. We try to stay vigilant, but this can happen to anyone anywhere.”
Miller said local Muslims were already on high alert after the New Zealand shootings.
He said when the note made a connection to New Zealand, “It gave us more of a mortal fear that something might happen that’s outlandish.”