Coachella, California – Carl James Dial Jr. a 23-year-old man has been arrested for several felony charges including arson and a hate crime. Dial is suspect of starting a fire at a Southern California mosque on Friday afternoon.

The fire was reported just after noon Friday at the Islamic Center of Palm Springs. Flames were contained by 18 firefighters less than 40 minutes after it was reported and no one was injured.

Dial was arrested at about 9 p.m. Friday and booked on five felony charges which included committing a hate crime, arson, maliciously setting a fire and second-degree burglary, according to law enforcement sources and Riverside County Sheriff’s Department booking records. Bail is set at $150,000 and Dial is expected to appear in court on Wednesday morning.

Authorities believe a fire at a mosque was intentionally set. Credit: Kate Larsen/NBC4 News

The fire at the Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley mosque is one of several incidents over the past week that officials are investigating as possible backlashes from the San Bernardino terrorist shootings, Los Angeles Times reported.

The mosque is about 120km from San Bernardino, where this month a married couple killed 14 people. Federal officials say the couple was inspired by Islamist extremists and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and Coachella Police Department believed this could have been another hate crime unleashed by the San Bernardino attack. The FBI and ATF are participating in the investigation.

Some Muslims in Southern California and around the country have worried about the potential for reprisals, while leaders of various faiths have called for tolerance.

“I am deeply concerned about the Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley Mosque going up in flames. I call for a thorough investigation to this arson as a possible hate crime and to bring the perpetrators to justice. I will continue to closely monitor the fire, the possible criminal investigation, and the safety of the members of the mosque. Our faith in humanity will not be intimidated and we stand together against any form violence towards the innocent.” Congressman Raul Ruiz commented.

Islamic leaders have flooded their social media sites with lists of do’s and don’ts to help the community stay safe. The lists, which were posted immediately after last week’s massacre at the Inland Regional Center, were developed after Sept. 11, 2001. Among the recommendations they can find advises like: check your surroundings, do not stay out late alone at night and inform loved ones of where you are going and when you will be back.

Source: LA Times