An investigation into a possible hate crime is underway Sunday following a small fire at an Escondido mosque, where officials said they found a note that referenced the recent massacre in New Zealand.
Escondido police and firefighters responded to the scene after receiving a report of a fire at the Islamic Center of Escondido around 3:15 a.m., Lt. Chris Lick said.
People inside the place of worship saw flames and came out to extinguish the blaze, Lick said. While nobody suffered any injuries, the fire scorched the exterior of the building, the lieutenant added.
The mosque was holding a religious retreat at the time, Lick said.
Graffiti that referenced the deadly mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques just over a week ago was left at the parking lot, according to police. Authorities provided no further details about the note, and they said no suspect information was available.
Although the incident rattled the Islamic community in the town just 30 miles north of downtown San Diego, Yusef Miller said news of what happened did not come as a complete shock.
“Given what’s been going on around the nation, around the world, we’re not too surprised,” Miller said. “We try to stay vigilant but this can happen to anyone, anywhere.”
Police had actually deployed extra resources in the area soon after the massacre in New Zealand, Lick said.
Agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also assisting with the investigation.
The officer urged the public to remain vigilant and anyone with information to call the authorities.