FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — An Islamic civil rights group said a Muslim man was beaten Saturday outside the Fort Pierce Islamic Center that Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen had attended. The incident comes as the group says local authorities ignored requests for increased security, despite numerous threats.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations released a statement saying a white truck stopped at the mosque at 4:15 a.m. Saturday and that a man made racial slurs, saying “You Muslims need to get back to your country.” The statement by the group, also known as CAIR, said the man beat the victim, causing head trauma and knocking out a tooth. The victim wasn’t identified and it wasn’t clear if he was hospitalized.
St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to emails and multiple phone messages left Saturday.
The incident comes after the Islamic group says the sheriff’s office has repeatedly ignored pleas to tighten security since Mateen fatally shot 49 people at a nightclub two weeks ago. The group says mosques around the state have received multiple threats and acts of intimidation, including a motorcycle group that repeatedly circled the Fort Pierce mosque in an attempt to intimidate worshippers and an Orlando mosque that was vandalized.
CAIR spokesman Wilfredo Amr Ruiz said the Fort Pierce congregation includes witnesses who are cooperating with the FBI and need protection. He the group planned to file a complaint with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and with the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Unfortunately, our requests were repeatedly ignored. Will someone have to be killed for the sheriff to provide safety and security to this Mosque? Muslims are part of the community just like everyone else. It is his duty and responsibility to ensure the safety of all his citizens,” Ruiz said in a statement.
Mateen’s father is among the roughly 100 members that attend the mosque. Ruiz said Omar Mateen sometimes attended Friday prayers but didn’t socialize with others.
Approximately 170,000 Muslims attend about 120 mosques in Florida, according to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies.
Sheriff Ken Mascara said in a statement Friday that deputies are patrolling the mosque more frequently but the office doesn’t have the staffing levels to place guards there, even if reimbursed. He had said no threats have been reported against the mosque.
“The terrorist attack in Orlando has our entire agency working extremely hard. Our first and primary mission is to ensure the continued safety and security of our entire county. Placing patrol units at specific locations by special request, even if reimbursed by the requesting party, is evaluated based on staffing levels and can at times limit our ability to maintain our mission and appropriately respond to the entire community,” Mascara said.