SANFORD, Fla. – Seminole County deputies released a 911 call Friday in reference to the killing of a maintenance worker at Husseini Islamic Center near Sanford on Thursday.
Deputies said the body of the 59-year-old man was found at the center, at 5211 Hester Ave., around 8:45 a.m. Thursday.
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A woman, who told the 911 operator she worked in the mosque, said she found the body after going around to the back of the building.
“We run a school at a community center and we come in and the caretaker’s pants were on the floor in front of the building and that’s not usual,” she explained over the 911 call. “We walk around to the back and see him on the floor and think he’s dead. I don’t know.”
She told the 911 operator, through labored breathing, that one of the “girls saw a car chase off,” which she later described as the caretaker’s vehicle.
“We’ve put all the kids in their car and they left. It’s just me and two other teachers here right now,” she said, when the operator asked her where the students were.
At a news briefing Thursday, Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said the suspect was seen leaving the scene in the victim’s blue 2006 Chrysler Town & Country minivan. Several hours later, the Indian River Sheriff’s Office spotted the van in the parking lot of a Sam’s Club.
Deputies said the suspect, later identified as 38-year-old Ahmed Raslan, was found by deputies in Indian River County where he was shot three times but is now in stable condition. If he survives, the sheriff’s office said he faces a first-degree murder charge.
Investigators said the suspect is considered possibly deranged.
According to deputies, the maintenance worker — likely killed with a shovel trying to defend the mosque — is a refugee from Iraq who was getting ready to return home following the death of his father.
“He was the heart and soul of this mosque,” said Mahmood Dhalla, president of the Husseini Islamic Center.
The identity of the victim has not yet been released.
[LISTEN TO THE FULL 911 CALL BELOW]