Mosque Fire Ruled Arson

ATF, the Victoria Islamic Center, and Crime Stoppers, offer reward for the Arson of the Victoria Mosque

HOUSTON – The Houston Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Victoria Islamic Center Mosque, and Crime Stoppers are announcing a reward of up to $30,000 for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the person or persons responsible for the fire that destroyed the Victoria Islamic Center Mosque.

On Jan. 28, 2017, at 2:11am, the Victoria Fire Department responded to a fire at the Victoria Islamic Center Mosque located at 201 E. Airline Road in Victoria, Texas. The fire fully engulfed the building causing an estimated $500,000 in damage.

The ATF, along with the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Victoria Fire Marshal and Department of Public Safety immediately began conducting an investigation into the origin and cause of this fire.

The investigative agencies have classified the fire as incendiary, or intentionally set. At this time, the evidence does not indicate the fire was a biased crime.

“Houses of worship are a sacred place in this country, and ATF is committed to devoting the necessary resources to solving this crime,” said Fred Milanowski, the special agent in charge of the ATF Houston Field Division. “We are working closely with our local law enforcement and emergency service partners on this investigation and ask that anyone with information about this incident please report it.”

Victoria Fire Chief Taner Drake said “The investigators are working feverishly to follow all leads that will lead to the arrest of the person(s) responsible”.

ATF and The Victoria Islamic Center Mosque are each offering a $10,000 reward and Crime Stoppers is offering up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the person or persons responsible for this crime.

Anyone with any information about this crime should contact ATF at 1-888-ATF-FIRE (1-888-283-3474) or Crime Stoppers at 361-572-4200. Individuals can also submit information through the mobile ReportIt® app, available both on Google Play and the Apple App Store. All individuals providing tips can remain anonymous.

More information about ATF and its programs is available at www.atf.gov

VICTORIA ISLAMIC CENTER PRESS RELEASE:

We would like to start by thanking Fire, police, state, and federal agencies for their hard work. Special thanks go to the investigation team headed by Tom Legler & Taner Drake. We ask our members and members of the public to give time, space, and informational assistance for law enforcement agencies to do their work. We would also like to share with you the following:

1.) The Victoria Islamic Center, on behalf of its members, would like to state that we are saddened & alarmed by the outcome of the investigation. Despite several indications of arson, we offered prayers of hope that the cause of fire would be accident rather than intentional act.

2.) Since the first hour after we were informed of the fire, our members decided to act rather than react. Our first press release through Facebook was posted at 3:29 am, the morning of the fire, was titled: We will rebuild with love. The hashtag #rebuildwithlove has since been our rallying cry. Despite local, national, and international media coverage and hints of political divisiveness we stayed above the negativity and adopted a message of unity and togetherness. Our cry for help crossed geographical boundaries of donors of many states and over 90 countries, it crossed religious sects and faiths, it crossed political affiliations of democrats & republicans, liberals & conservatives. Our “human family” and spiritual friends heard us and responded with love, support, and donations.

3.) American Muslims have suffered from, and advocated against, stereotyping and bigotry. We have always asked that we not be painted with a broad brush because of the evil acts of few individuals claiming to be Muslims. Therefore, it would be hypocritical of us to point the blame on any group of people based on assumptions and stereotype. Our Islamic faith calls upon us to not judge others, let alone base such judgement on assumptions and suspicion. Therefore, our message of unity, of hope, and inclusiveness will continue.

4.) Our Islamic faith permits victims to seek justice through the legal system but at the same time it encourages its followers to show forgiveness. Therefore, we declare that spiritually we will strive hard to shield our hearts from negativity or animosity and to channel our energy instead on the hope, desire, and determination to rebuild.

5.) We appeal to the arsonist or arsonists to put an end to this tragedy and surrender to law enforcement. The blessing of not having loss of lives or physical injuries makes it easier to try to correct the wrong and fix the damage before it’s too late

6.) We encourage the public to come forward with any information or leads that could be useful for law enforcement to solve the case. The Victoria Islamic Center, independent of the separate rebuilding fund, is offering a monetary reward of $10,000 to any individual who comes forward with information that can directly lead to arrest. We will work closely with law enforcement to work out the logistics of granting the award. Tips can be called to ATF at: 800-ATF-GUNS Callers who want to remain anonymous by can call Crime Stoppers at 361-572-4200, again this number is 361-572-4200

7.) Finally, we kindly ask the public to continue to include us in their prayers. We also pray for our Victoria community to remain united and safe. May God protect & bless you & your families, may God protect & bless our global human family, and may God protect & bless the United States of America

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