MOORHEAD, Minn. — A 22-year-old man appeared in Minnesota's 7th Judicial District court on charges of second degree criminal damage to property and harassment with bias in connection with the vandalism of the Moorhead Fargo Islamic Center mosque, which was first discovered early Sunday morning.
Benjamin Stewart Enderle, of Dickinson, said he spray-painted the racist messages on the Moorhead mosques to "get a reaction." Among the various spray painted messages were "N*****," "Death to Islam," and a Swastika.
The incident has sparked the Council of American-Islamic Relations Minnesota to call for authorities to seek federal hate crime charges against the Dickinson native, which carries under 18 U.S. Code § 249, federal hate crime charges, up to 10 years in federal prison.
It is unclear if federal hate crime charges will be sought, but in his first court appearance Thursday morning Enderle told the judge “I regretted doing it right after I did it.”
The judge set bond at $40,000 without conditions, or $20,000 with conditions. If convicted, Enderle faces up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Enderle was arrested after police say a Walmart loss prevention officer's independent investigation led them to the Dickinson native.
According to Moorhead Police Capt. Deric Swenson, the Walmart employee upon hearing the Moorhead Fargo Islamic Center had been vandalized began a review of security camera footage from area Walmart stores for a person matching the description and photos released by police.
The employee, who has asked to remain anonymous, found a person matching the photos and description in a video surveillance from a Walmart in Fargo and called police. Investigators, using the information provided, quickly located and arrested Enderle in south Moorhead late Tuesday night, and booked him into the Clay County Jail.
Police were able to identify the vehicle the suspect left in and were able to get a copy of the receipt and payment method used at Walmart, tracing the account and vehicle to Enderle.
When questioned, Enderle said he vandalized the mosque "as a joke," according to the criminal complaint against him, before adding that he doesn't "hate them."
"He further stated he did it to get a reaction from the community and the media," the complaint says, which detailed that he acted alone.