Ex-con said to confess to mosque fire in Fla.
FORT PIERCE, Fla. — An ex-convict who posted anti-Islamic rants online confessed to setting fire to a mosque that the Orlando, Fla., nightclub shooter occasionally attended, and said he was embarrassed by the crime, according to an arrest affidavit released Thursday.
St. Lucie County sheriff ’s detectives wrote in the affidavit that after Joseph Schreiber was arrested Wednesday, he told detectives that he had set the fire at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce on Sunday, the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The blaze also coincided with the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha.
Schreiber, 32, told detectives he never intended to hurt anyone. No one was injured in the fire, which burned a hole in the roof at the back of the mosque’s main building and blackened its eaves with soot.
Schreiber, who previously served two prison terms for theft, became a suspect after a tip from the public, the affidavit said.
He was arrested Wednesday and charged with second-degree arson with a hate crime enhancement, a crime that carries a maximum 30year sentence.
St. Lucie County Judge Philip Yacucci ordered Schreiber held without bail Thursday, calling him a danger to the community and a flight risk. He also noted that Schreiber had made anti-Islamic posts on social media.
Last July, Schreiber, who is Jewish, posted on Facebook that “All Islam is radical” and that all Muslims should be treated as terrorists and criminals.
Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Florida, said Schreiber “obviously doesn’t know about the efforts our community is engaged in with our cousins, the Jews, not only i n Florida but throughout the nation.”
He criticized Gov. Rick Scott and other politicians who failed to speak out after the fire and denounce what he called “terrorism.”
“We are certainly missing our political leaders who are probably too busy campaigning now to do a minimum expression of solidarity” with Florida’s Muslims, Ruiz said. “Certainly our governor is missing from this.”
Scott’s office issued a brief statement in response late Thursday saying only, “Local law enforcement is investigating and the state stands ready to assist in their efforts in any way.”
Mateen was killed by police after opening fire at the Pulse nightclub June 12 in a rampage that left 49 victims dead and 53 wounded, making it the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Mateen professed allegiance to the Islamic State group. His father is among roughly 100 people who regularly attend the mosque.
The FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined the investigation into the fire. Schreiber
Mosque member Farhad Khan surveys damage at the center Thursday in Fort Pierce, Fla.