(ORLANDO, Fla.) — Investigators released video showing a possible suspect in a fire that authorities believe was deliberately set at the mosque that had been attended by Omar Mateen, the shooter in the Orlando, Florida nightclub massacre.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s department said surveillance footage reveals what appears to be a white or Hispanic male arriving on a Harley Davidson-style motorcycle at approximately 11:38 p.m. Sunday.
In the video, a man is seen approaching the building from the northeast side, and then a flash can be seen, according to the sheriff’s department. The male is then seen running from the building. He appears to be carrying “paper and a bottle of some type of liquid,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement.
The sheriff’s department added that the man can be seen waving his arm around immediately after a flash is seen, possibly indicating that he had burned his hand.
Authorities are asking anyone who recognizes the individual from the video to come forward.
Special agents for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms field office in Fort Pierce and the Miami Field Division Certified Fire Investigators are assisting the FBI, they announced in a statement Monday, adding that the arson is being treated as a hate crime.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office is also actively investigating the arson along with the St. Lucie County Fire District and the Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office, the sheriff’s office announced Monday morning.
Emergency responders received a call at about 12:31 a.m. Monday reporting a fire at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, Florida, the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said. St. Lucie County Fire District crews responded and extinguished the fire.
Investigators said evidence points to an intentional fire.
Surveillance video shows an individual walking up to the east side of the building prior to a flash and a fire breaking out, Maj. David Thompson of the sheriff’s office said at Monday morning’s press conference.
The blaze broke out just hours after the passing of the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, on the three-month anniversary of the June 12 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and also on the same day as the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
“Right now I don’t want to speculate on a motive,” Maj. Thompson said. “We all know the implications of the date and the time of year, this is the 9/11 anniversary. Is that related? I would not want to speculate but it is in the back of our minds.”
“This is a horrible tragedy,” Maj. Thompson added, “not only for the Islamic Center, but also for our community.”
Authorities said they would release the surveillance video as soon as possible.
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