Officials have confirmed the capture of a man seen on video last week vandalizing the Masjidullah Center for Human Excellence in West Oak Lane.
The mosque was vandalized last Friday when a man painted a cross, a Star of David, as well as the phrases “Jesus Christ”, “John Christ”, and “say my name.”
On Tuesday, Philadelphia Police identified the suspect as 47-year-old Johnathan Boone. He is charged with criminal mischief, institutional vandalism, and criminal trespass.
West Oak Lane community members came together Monday evening to discuss the incident. Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner confirmed to members of the media before the event that a suspect had been arrested.
“The message is haters lose,” Krasner said. “If you want to go to jail, then mess with hatred, mess with churches, mess with good people in the community who are trying to do the right thing, and we’ll find you a jail cell.”
Captain Tanisha Richardson serves in the 14th District. She announced to attendees the suspect is now in custody. She credited the footage shared of the incident, but also noted he had been stopped by police in the past.
“One of our officers at the 14th District, she apparently had had previous encounters with the suspect,” Richardson said. “Based on information provided by the officers, [detectives] did additional investigating and found out where the individual resided, went there, spoke to the manager of the location and just simply showed the manager the picture. They didn’t offer a name or anything. And sure enough, the man said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s such and such.’”
Ninth District Councilmember Anthony Phillips said in an interview with WHYY News his community was “shocked, horrified, and disgusted” by what had taken place.
“That is not what this community stands for,” Phillips said. “There is more than enough evidence that shows that different faith communities are always working together to serve others.”
Phillips believes the vandal should be charged with a hate crime, but that the individual is also in need of rehabilitation.
“At the end of the day, if there’s no education in terms of helping them understand what they did and why what they did is wrong, we’re not going to help the transition of that individual back into society, and we want that individual be back in society so they can teach other people what they learn from their mistake,” Phillips said.
Members of the community also said they were shocked by the vandalism.
Levita Jones attended the mosque back when it was the West Oak Lane Church of God and her daughter attended Pre-K there. She said she was “distressed” when she heard the news from her husband, Solomon Jones, when he discussed it on his talk show.
“What occurred on Friday is unacceptable,” she said. “It’s an anomaly. It’s an anomaly as long as I lived around here, nothing like that has ever taken place.”
“I literally cried,” added Roz McKelvey of Germantown Deaf Ministries. “I cried last night. This beautiful building and beautiful people worship God here, and I cried. But I’m happy to see you all today.”
The Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Philadelphia) called on law enforcement Sunday to investigate a possible bias motive.
“We condemn this act of vandalism and urge local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to apprehend the perpetrator and to determine whether there was a bias motive for the incident,” CAIR-Philadelphia President Mohammed Zubairu said in a press release. “All Americans should feel safe from harassment or intimidation at their houses of worship.”
Zubairu, who is also a member of Masjidullah, also urged the local Muslim community and Islamic institutions nationwide to take extra security precautions.