U.S. attorney Steven M. Dettlebach. Behind at left is Wood County prosecutor Paul Dobson, and at right is Robin Shoemaker, Special Agent in Charge, ATF Columbus Field Division.
A fire in the prayer room of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo was an act of terrorism, officials said Friday during a news conference in which they announced federal hate crime charges against the suspect.
“We consider it disturbing because ... what we consider and what we're charging is essentially an act of terrorism,” Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson said. “The fact of the matter is … we're not going to stand for that.”
Local charges against Randy Linn, 52, of St. Joe, Ind., were dropped Friday in favor of federal charges, one count each of damage to religious property and use of fire or explosive in connection with commission of a federal felony offense.
Mr. Linn was held later Friday in the Wood County jail in lieu of $400,000 bond.
If convicted of the first count, Mr. Linn faces a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison; the second charge has a mandatory minimum of 10 years, which must be served consecutively.
According to a criminal affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo, a woman who saw surveillance images published by local media recognized the man and identified him as Mr. Linn.
She told officials that the suspect, who she described as an ex-Marine, “recently complained about the international Muslim community's reaction to the recent anti-Muslim video published on YouTube, recent attacks on United States embassies, and the deaths of U.S. military personnel in the Middle East.”
“She further stated that Linn has complained that Muslims in this country get a ‘free pass,’ ” the affidavit states
The video refers to one in which Prophet Mohammed is depicted as a religious fraud, womanizer, and pedophile. After a trailer to the video was posted online, violence broke out in which several people were killed, including Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
A sign is placed outside a tent for Jumah prayer Friday on the grounds of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo.
“This was a cowardly act of violence that flies in the face of the greatest freedom that we enjoy in this community, this state, and this country, and that is the freedom of religion,” said Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
The affidavit claims that the suspect left his home in Indiana on Sunday and drove to the Perrysburg Township mosque, 25877 Scheider Rd.
On surveillance footage, a red sport utility vehicle is seen arriving at the center's parking lot at 4:11 p.m. A man got out of the vehicle and went to the front door of the center, pulling the sleeve of the camouflage hooded sweatshirt he was wearing over his hand, and opening the door.
The man, in surveillance, can be seen walking around inside the center carrying — what officials believe — was a handgun and a gas can.
There were no cameras on the stairs that led to the prayer room or in the prayer room itself, according to the affidavit.
The man is seen leaving the center at 4:54 p.m. without the gas can, but still appeared to have a firearm, the affidavit states.
At 4:58 p.m., the center's alarm company called the Perrysburg Township Fire Department after a waterflow alarm was activated.
Upon arrival, crews found remnants of a red plastic gas can in the middle of the prayer room, and the carpet beneath had been burned.
Police who arrested the suspect on Tuesday in Fort Wayne reported that he made anti-Muslim remarks to them.
During searches of the suspect's home and vehicle, federal agents reported finding a camouflage sweatshirt and hat, several guns, electronic storage devices, and “other items authorized by the federal search warrant.”
Mr. Dettelbach said the act at the mosque was “sending a message of fear.” He also said, “these types of crimes are profoundly disturbing.”
Contact Taylor Dungjen at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @tdungjen_Blade.