TITUSVILLE, Fla. – A man was arrested Monday on allegations of vandalizing a Brevard County mosque and leaving bacon near the front door.
Michael Scott Wolfe, 35, of Titusville, was arrested at 6:11 p.m. in the incident. He faces charges of criminal mischief to a mosque, a third-degree felony.
In the arrest affidavit, a detective wrote that Wolfe was picked up at his home in Titusville after a tip came in.
Police said an investigation revealed that Wolfe entered the carport of Central Florida’s Masjid Al-Mu'min at 1011 South Washington Ave. at 11 p.m. Friday and destroyed property with a machete and placed raw bacon in and around the front door.
Officers said several cameras, lights and windows were broken and bacon was left near the front door of the mosque. Pork is prohibited in Islam, a faith followed by 1.6 billion people worldwide.
At the mosque on Monday, News 6 spotted surveillance cameras mangled, wires dangling, windows smashed and security lights broken.
"I'm very disturbed by the fact that this man came onto the mosque with a machete," said Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida. "I'm very glad there was no one there. If he had a confrontation with somebody else, Muslim or not, I don't know what mental condition he was in, if he used that machete against someone, he was hitting live electrical wires, he could have electrocuted himself, he was endangering himself."
At Wolfe's first appearance Tuesday afternoon, a judge set his bond at $7,500 after pointing out his criminal history.
"I've reviewed your prior record which is extensive, including 4 failures to appear, recent release from DOC in 2012, and a history of burglary convictions."
The judge also ordered that Wolfe stay away from the Titusville mosque and all mosques in Brevard County.
According to the arrest affidavit, Wolfe admitted to the vandalism, said he acted alone, and "stated his acts where 'stupid' after having a few alcoholic beverages."
Prosecutors said they charged Wolfe with a third degree felony, rather a misdemeanor, because the vandalism occurred at a place of worship.
"It's very disturbing, it's disenchanting," said Rasha Mubarak, the director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Orlando Region. "The first time I heard about the news was through a relative in Titusville. They were there earlier that day with their children. It's a place where their children go to play with their friends and now they're afraid to take their kids there."
"Really it's a shock to our town," said Titusville City Councilman Matt Barringer. "We understand there may be frustrations felt throughout the community, although they may be unjust, taking out the frustration in this way is cowardly and most people recognize it for that."
"It's very upsetting," said Musri. "I hear everyday negative stuff and as an American Muslim I'm very disheartened how our fellow Americans are seeing me, my fellow Muslim Americans, and our faith in a bad light."
Wolfe was taken to the Brevard County Jail and is expected to appear before a judge Tuesday.
Mubarak said the vandalism was a hate crime in particular because of the bacon left at the front door.
"We're grateful that no one was hurt in Titusville but we want to have them investigate this as a hate crime so God forbid the next time we do hear about this it's not that someone's life had to be taken," said Mubarak.
Mubarak said CAIR is concerned about violence escalating after as many as 17 hate crimes against Muslims were reported in the last two months across the country. She said CAIR gets death threats daily.
"What we're doing is conducting security training across Florida not only for mosques but for any kind of community center," said Mubarak. "We do it at synagogues, churches, active shooter training, what to do inside a community center, how to be safe, God forbid there is an incident like this you're prepared as much as possible."
Wolfe was ordered to appear in court again on March 3 at 8 a.m. in Titusville.