The FBI and Hawthorne police were pairing up for hate-crime investigations of vandalism over the weekend at two Los Angeles–area mosques.
The vandalism follows a string of reported hate crimes at mosques across the nation after a married couple radicalized in the ways of Islamic extremism killed 14 people and wounded 21 in San Bernardino on Dec. 2.
Hawthorne police say the first report of vandalism came in at 6:30 a.m. Sunday.
Cops responded to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Baitus-Salaam Mosque, where the word “Jesus” was spray-painted in white on a fence, Lt. Aimee Yoshida said.
Officers also found a “hand grenade–type device” in the mosque's driveway, prompting an evacuation and a bomb squad response, police said.
The device was determined to be a plastic replica.
Cops said they also were called to the Islamic Center of Hawthorne for a similar report — vandalism. Someone spray-painted ''Jesus is the way'' on the front of that facility, Yoshida said.
Investigators believe the vandalism at both locations took place “overnight,” she said. Police weren't saying whether they believe the incidents were linked, despite the similarities.
The FBI has joined the investigation, and “both incidents are being classified as hate crimes,” Yoshida said.
“The FBI is committed to ensure law-abiding citizens are protected and to deter those who would threaten them,” the bureau said in a statement. ” … The FBI takes seriously all acts or threats of violence and reminds the public to remain vigilant and immediately report any crimes or suspicious activity to law enforcement.”
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said, “We don't literally have time to issue a statement on every incident because they're coming in so fast and furious.”
A suspect was in custody after a Coachella Valley mosque was set on fire last week.
Hawthorne's police chief, Robert Fager, had just participated in a post–San Bernardino interfaith “walk-and-rally” co-hosted by the Islamic Center Saturday, Yoshida said.