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WATCH: Police release surveillance video of vandalism at Islamic Center of Tucson

Posted at 5:37 PM, Mar 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-21 01:01:17-04

Newly released video from Tucson Police shows the man who broke into the Islamic Center of Tucson last week.

Investigators are hoping now that U of A students are back from spring break, someone may recognize the man and he can be identified.

Sgt. Rob Brandt with the Tucson Police Department says based on the time of day and the way the man was walking and acting, he may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

"Rational people don't break into holy places and start disrupting them," Brandt said in a press conference Monday.

Brandt says the suspect was inside the center for at around 20 or 30 minutes. There have been a few leads, but Brandt says they haven't identified the man.

TPD says the incident can't officially be called a hate crime. investigators would have to track down the suspect first and determine a motive. The suspect could face felony charges including vandalism and aggravated criminal damage. 

Spokesman Mahmoud Obagi said the man entered the center, at 901 E. First Street, at 3:30 a.m. on March 13, breaking through and damaging the front door.

The suspect then attempted to break into the administration office but was unsuccessful.

"He went into the prayer hall and began throwing copies of the Quran, kicking them and vandalizing the entire prayer hall and whatever he was able to touch," said Obagi. 

Once inside, the suspect threw dozens of copies of the Quran on the floor, damaging the books to the point where they need to be destroyed.

The center decided to have that portion of the footage redacted. For Muslims the Quran is sacred, and center didn't want to upset anyone by showing the video.

"It was heartbreaking," Obagi said. "There was no reason for others to see the footage, when it really couldn't benefit them in any way. So that's our perspective on it."

Since the incident Obagi says the center has received a huge outpouring of support from the community. People from across the country have sent copies of the Quran and donate money. One GoFundMe page raised more than $13,000 for the center.

Obagi says they are using that money to upgrade security around the center including adding cameras and possible hiring a security guard.

"We've received gifts, flowers, people have just stopped by and wrote letters to show their support for the Islamic Center," Obagi said. "We're very fortunate to live in a community such as Tucson. I'm proud to call myself a Tucsonan."

Anyone with information is urged to contact 911 or 88-CRIME.