MOORHEAD, Minn. — Police have arrested a 22-year-old Moorhead man as the suspect who spray-painted hate-filled graffiti on the Moorhead Fargo Islamic Center last weekend.
Benjamin Enderle was booked into the Clay County Jail after being taken into custody in Moorhead on Tuesday night.
Investigators are recommending felony charges of harassment and criminal damage to property in connection with the vandalism at the mosque, which serves Muslims in Moorhead and neighboring Fargo, N.D., according to police spokesman Capt. Deric Swenson.
The recommended charges are enhanced due to “hate-related acts,” he said.
Reports have been forwarded to the Clay County attorney’s office, where the final charges will be determined and then filed.
Swenson said police aren’t looking for any other suspects.
Swenson said an employee of a local retail store helped “turn the tables” in the investigation by providing important details that led them to Enderle.
Swenson said the woman worked in loss prevention at the store, which he didn’t want to name yet. Through her own investigating, she matched up the jacket shown in a video of the suspect from the night of the vandalism with spray paint purchases, and provided the tip to police.
It was a fairly quick arrest in the case as officers were called to the mosque Sunday morning, where they found phrases such as “Death to Islam,” along with racial slurs spray-painted on the building. The vandalism likely occurred late Saturday night or early Sunday.
Cani Adan, chairperson for the Moorhead Human Rights Commission, said that the law will prosecute the suspect how it sees fit, but he believes forgiveness is the right way forward.
“This feels happy. When a lot of people in the community showed up (to clean up the vandalism), we already felt happy and at home, but for the work the Moorhead Police Department this makes us feel happy to catch the guy in a very quick time. This makes a lot of happiness,” Adan said.
“When it comes to the charges, we really don’t judge people and the ignorance in people,” Adan said. “We are not going to judge the guy, he’s a young guy, 22 years old. We want him to see that we are better than him and a part of the community.”
In a news release, police said they “appreciated the interest and compassion shown by local citizens, media and the community as a whole in solving this crime.”
The compassion came through Monday when nearly 400 people came to help the Islamic Center clean up.
So many people showed up with cleaning supplies, including pressure washers, chemicals and scrub brushes, that many had to wait on the sidelines for a chance to help. The vandalism was taken care of in less than two hours
The Islamic Center so far has raised more than $48,000 through a GoFundMe page to help pay off debt on the building and make building improvements, including security.
The issue has drawn national attention.
Muslim Advocates, a national civil rights organization, issued a statement about the vandalism at the mosque on Monday, asking state legislators to expand and update hate crime laws.
Forum News Service reporter C.S. Hagen contributed to this report.