Mosque Burned in Saturday Morning Fires

February 2, 2007

Author: Aaron Aupperlee

Source: Desert Dispatch

YERMO - On Saturday morning, the sheriff's department and fire crews from the area responded multiple fires in Yermo, one at the Beanery, an old Union Pacific building, and one on property owned by Ali Mohammed. The fire destroyed buildings, one of which the local Muslim community used as a mosque.

"I don't know if it's a hate crime or not," Mohammed said. "I hope it's not a hate crime."

The fire on Mohammed's property destroyed three buildings, a two-bedroom unit, a fourbedroom unit and a garage. The garage served as a temporary mosque until renovations finished on one of the other units, Mohammed said. During holidays, Mohammed said 150 to 200 people would come to the mosque to worship. Worshipers prayed at the mosque on Friday evening, he said, the day before the fire destroyed it.

Deputies arrested two men in connection with the fires. Loren Jesse Clark, 18, of Yermo, was arraigned on Tuesday on two counts of felony arson. He pleaded not guilty to both counts. The sheriff's department has identified the other suspect as a 16-year-old male. He was cited for arson and released to his mother, according to the sheriff's report. His name was not released.

Deputy Eddie Paul of the Barstow station said one of the suspects admitted to setting the fire. However, he would not identify which one. Paul also said the fire did not appear to be a hate crime.