Fort Pierce mosque attended by Orlando nightclub shooter catches fire overnight, ruled arson

Video shows person setting fire to mosque
Posted at 4:09 AM, Sep 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-12 11:59:15-04

ST. LUCE COUNTY, Fla. - Investigators said an overnight fire was intentionally set at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, the same mosque attended by Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen.

The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office said 911 received a call at 12:31 a.m. that the place of worship was on fire.

The mosque has made national headlines because it served as the place of worship of Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen. It was also where Syrian suicide bomber Moner Mohammad Abu Salha worshipped.

Several investigators, including the state fire marshal’s office and sheriff’s office arson investigators, were called to the scene.

At a 6:30 a.m. news conference, Major David Thompson with the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said the fire was intentionally set. 

At 11:30 a.m., investigators said the arsonist, who is either white or Hispanic, arrived at the scene in a "Harley-Davidson-style" motorcycle.

Thompson said video captured at the mosque showed a person approaching the east side of the building just moments before a flash was seen and the fire started.

Chopper 5 flew over the scene and showed there was substantial damage to the building. The fire wasn't extinguished until 5 a.m.

The sheriff's office, St. Lucie County Fire District, the Division of State Fire Marshal, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are all investigating the case.

As soon as they are able, officials said they will release surveillance video of the incident and ask for the public to assist in identifying the person or persons responsible.

They said the investigation is still at very early stage and updates will be provided as new information is available.

The mosque issued the following statement on its Facebook page:

It is with a very heavy heart that we have to announce that last night around midnight, there was an arson attack on our Mosque. We urge those of you coming for Eid Prayer to please go to the other Masjid on US-1, Address: 4000 US-1, Fort Pierce, FL 34982
Please keep us in your Du'as and prayers.

Midway Road has reopened after earlier closures.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations issued this statement Monday morning.

"We congratulate the St. Lucie Sheriff office and Major D. Thompson for their prompt response to this tragic situation. It is worrisome that our community have fallen victim of another hate crime. This time another mosque has been targeted in a crime that could have easily taken the life of any worshiper. Only one hour prior to the fire the building was occupied. Our prayers are with the Ft. Pierce Islamic Center community for all the difficulties they have endured this year.  On the other hand, we are grateful  that nobody was physically hurt and that not only local but also federal law enforcement agencies are on top of this heinous act of terror against the Muslim community.

As of 3 a.m., Midway Road between Sunrise and Elm were closed to traffic. 

Story Developing. Stay with ABC Action News for updates. 

Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere.

Download our free app for Apple and Android and Kindle devices.

Sign up for newsletters emailed to your inbox.

Follow us on Twitter

Follow @abcactionnews

Like us on Facebook