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New Haven Police Chief: no indication yet that intentional mosque fire was hate crime

NEW HAVEN - Lawmakers keep pushing for more action following the recent intentionally set fire at a mosque in New Haven.

US Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) says he’s headed back to Washington to fight for federal nonprofit security funding, which the Trump administration zeroed out this year. In fact, Blumenthal wants the funds doubled to $25,000 million.

“So that Connecticut non-profits, like this one, can be made more secure against this kind of devastating criminal activity,” Blumenthal said.

New Haven’s Police Chief says that, while this mosque fire was deemed to have been intentionally set, that doesn’t mean it will be classified as a hate crime.

“I can tell you that, on the onset, there has not been anything uncovered to determine that it is definitively a hate crime,” said Police Chief Otoniel Reyes.

But, he added, that has also not been ruled out. Especially with what’s transpiring globally.

“Our initial inclination is to sort of air on the side of this potentially being a hate crime or even worse, right, or, even terrorism,” said Reyes.

Reyes said it’s important that investigators do not approach this with narrow mindedness.

“We just have to follow the leads, follow the evidence to make sure we do justice to the investigation,” he said.

This fire prompted New Haven to roll out a house of worship preparedness program.

“Some of it has to do with making sure that there is clear visibility to your property, knowing who is on the property, increasing lighting, getting surveillance cameras installed, checking your smoke detectors,” said New Haven Fire Chief John Alston

Damage estimates have topped $500,000, according to mosque leadership. But, there is fundraising campaign that is assisting the recovery.

“Over the years, I come in I teach regularly here,” said Omer Bajwa, the Director od Muslim Life at Yale University. “I come to Iftar dinners. I come here and pray with them regularly.” He said when he and his wife heard about this intentional fire, they got together Monday night and said we’ve got to do something so they turned to a friend to help them get an online fundraiser started decided to do it through an organization called Launch Good, whose director they know.

“Then, in the last three days, three and a half days, we’ve raised $155,000,” he said Friday morning. “And, it’s gone global. We’ve got 5,000 people or so from around the world.”

And, by mid afternoon Friday, the total was over $160,000. And, Bajwa says, in looking at donors names, most of them are non Muslim.

“We would love to hit $200,000. That would be amazing,” he said.

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