Man charged with arson at Florida mosque ’embarrassed’ by his crime
The man charged with setting fire to a Florida mosque attended by the gunman in a deadly Orlando nightclub attack told police he was embarrassed by his actions and did not intend to hurt anyone, according to an arrest report released on Thursday.
Joseph Michael Schreiber, 32, was arrested on arson and hate crime charges on Wednesday, three days after police say he began the blaze that badly damaged the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce on one of the holiest Muslim holidays, as well as the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. No one was injured.
Schreiber, who has a prison record, confessed he set the fire but would not reveal what accelerant he used, the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said in its arrest affidavit.
During an interview with detectives, he made statements about “Islamic extremists,” the affidavit said. His Facebook page also included anti-Muslim rhetoric, including a July post that said, “ALL ISLAM IS RADICAL, and should be considered TERRORIST AND CRIMINALS,” according to police.
The blaze forced the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce congregation to relocate prayer services for Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice.
The mosque was a place of worship for gunman Omar Mateen before he killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, about 100 miles (160 km) away.
Mateen was killed by law enforcement officers at the end of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. He told police in a 911 call that he had pledged allegiance to the head of the Islamic State militant group, but investigators do not believe he had assistance from outside organizations.
Schreiber faces at least 30 years in prison if convicted of committing the arson attack. A judge on Thursday denied him bail, the Palm Beach Post reported. Jail records did not indicate whether he has a lawyer.
The sheriff’s affidavit said surveillance video showed a man arriving by motorcycle at the mosque late on Sunday. A few moments after he walked toward the building, he was seen running away as a large flash of light came from the structure.
At a news conference announcing Schreiber’s arrest, Sheriff’s Major David Thompson said the suspect owns a motorcycle like the one seen in the video. Thompson said tips from the public led investigators to Schreiber’s home in nearby Port St. Lucie, where a search turned up additional evidence tying him to the crime.
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C.)