A Muslim man was beaten up outside the Fort Pierce Islamic Center that Orlando gunman Omar Mateen had attended, said the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Saturday.
A truck reportedly pulled up at the mosque early on Saturday morning, and a man began making racial slurs, saying "You Muslims need to get back to your country." The man apparently beat the victim, AP reported, and he suffered head trauma and a knocked-out tooth.
Sheriff Ken J. Mascara from the Saint Lucie County Sheriff's Office said in a statement that deputies were called to the scene where they discovered a man "who was bleeding from the mouth." The man reportedly told Mascara that he was standing next to his car when a male approached him, "asked him what he was doing and then punched him several times in the face and head."
The Sheriff's Office says they arrested a suspect, Taylor Anthony Mazzanti, 25, after the incident and charged him with felony battery. Mazzanti is now being held in jail on bond.
"Interviews by the deputies and supervisors on scene and a written witness statement completed by the victim do not indicate any racially-motivated comments were made by the suspect prior to, during or after the incident," Mascara said in a Sheriff's office statement emailed to VICE News. "However, we are further investigating the incident and detectives will be interviewing the suspect, victim and apparent witness that has now been identified by the Council of Islamic American Relations."
CAIR's branch in Florida wrote in a statement earlier this week that the mosque has received repeated threatening voice messages since Mateen opened fire in a gay nightclub in downtown Orlando, killing 49 people. Last weekend, a motorcycle group circled the building and shouted racial slurs at congregants.
CAIR contends that the Saint Lucie County Sheriff's office has ignored repeated requests for ramped up security, according to AP.
In a statement last week, Wilfredo Ruiz, communications director for CAIR's Florida chapter, said that the mosque had offered to pay law enforcement agencies for extra security, but they've been repeatedly rebuffed.
"People in the community are afraid," Ruiz said. "They are fearful for their safety and community. The imam told me, when I asked what is your main concern, he told me safety and security of his family and he was in tears when he told me that."
The Sheriff's office rejects such allegations.
"The untruthful rhetoric from the mosque and its spokesperson is doing nothing more than trying to bring empathy to their cause, which I hope our community recognizes," Mascara said in the statement. "My office, including myself and our agency Chaplain, have repeatedly attempted to communicate with the mosque to explore options of working together and there has been no response."
The Sheriff's office did not clarify what "cause" the mosque was trying to bring empathy to, and when asked to elaborate, did not offer further comment to VICE News.
Last week the AP reported that Mascara said that his deputies were making more frequent patrols around the mosque but that the agency did not have enough staff to place long-term guards at the site.
"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, according to the AP.
Last weekend's motorcycle ride was organized by a group of riders in the Fort Pierce area but included riders from across the state, the Sun Sentinel newspaper reported. Rider Lewis Smith told TCPalm.com that he and his fellow motorcyclists circled the mosque 15 times as part of a ride to honor of those killed at the Pulse nightclub.
"We stand united against those willing to destroy our country and what we stand for," Smith told TCPalm.com.
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