Community members who worship at the Islamic Center of Bloomington are still assessing the damage after a man caught on surveillance video vandalized the center early Monday morning.
Heather Akou told the Bloomingtonian a fence paid for by community members and installed by a man who attends the center, was severely damaged. The steel of the fence was twisted in several places appearing to have been hit by a vehicle, but a person caught on surveillance video bent the steel with his bare hands. The Bloomington police department collected DNA samples during their investigation.
Akou said an HVAC unit was also damaged and will have to be replaced, but a company has already been hired to do the repair work. However, the center has a high deductible on its insurance policy, and details were being worked out on how to raise funds to pay for the work.
It’s less certain how the fence will be replaced, which was put in place for children using the daycare center at the center so they could play safely on the grounds of the center. Akou estimated just the materials for the fence cost thousands of dollars several years ago, and it had been installed with volunteer labor. The daycare center has been closed since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and hasn’t reopened, which has been a burden on women relying on it for daycare.
“Now that work has been destroyed,” said Akou as she looked at the twisted sections of fence.
A multi-faith alliance event is being planned so the community can show their concern and give support to those who belong to the local community worshipping at the center.
Akou said she this wasn’t the first time the center was vandalized, and she also noted, a synagogue in Bloomington has also been vandalized in the past.
A Molotov cocktail was thrown through a window at the Islamic Center in the mid-2000s, but a member was there to put out the fire. Later the sign for the center was stolen and can’t be replaced without city approval due to an ordinance on where signs can be located near streets. A local Muslim woman was also physically attacked in 2015, and the community showed up at her business as patrons to show their support.
Bloomington Police Department Capt Ryan Pedigo released the following information yesterday:
“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.
On the morning of October 19th, I sent the following email as well as the photographs collected by the investigating detective to local media asking for the public’s assistance in identifying the suspect:
“BPD is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying the suspect in the attached photos. The suspect vandalized the Islamic Center of Bloomington during the early-morning hours of October 18th. Below is a brief description of what was reported to BPD:
On October 18th at approximately 6:40 a.m., an officer of BPD responded to the Islamic Center of Bloomington, located in the 1900 block of E Atwater Avenue, for a report of prior vandalism. The responding officer spoke to the President of the Center, who stated that he had been able to review video surveillance footage. The footage shows what appears to be a white male with short hair and layered clothing entering the playground area of the Center at approximately 1:13 a.m. on October 18th. The man can be seen in the footage damaging several picnic tables and dumping trash cans over. He can also be seen breaking the metal fencing around the playground. Further, the man damaged an air conditioning unit by pulling wires from it, broke one of the security cameras that points towards the playground, and broke several toys that were in the playground prior to leaving the area around 2:00 a.m.
Anyone with information about the crime, or who may know the identity of the suspect, is asked to call Detective John Alberson at (812)339-4477.”
After the photographs had been posted by local media on the 19th, a representative from the Center came to the lobby of the Bloomington Police Department and advised staff that he believed that he had photographs of the suspect that were more clear than those released to the public earlier in the day. The investigating detective therefore contacted the man and asked for the photographs to be sent to him so BPD could release them. The photographs were sent to the detective at approximately 5:15 p.m. and are attached to this email.
The Bloomington Police Department will continue to investigate this crime and encourages anyone with information to please contact Detective John Alberson at (812)339-4477.”