FORT COLLINS — Police arrested a former Army medic after a vandal broke windows and left a Bible at a Colorado mosque — an act that led to an outpouring of support for Muslims, authorities said
Joseph Scott Giaquinto, 35, was taken into custody Monday on suspicion of committing a crime motivated by bias and other allegations just hours after police released surveillance video and asked for the public's help identifying a hoodie-wearing man seen picking up a stone and kicking a door at the Islamic Center in Fort Collins.
The suspect's father, Michael Giaquinto, told the Coloradoan that his son was an Army medic who served in Iraq and Korea and moved last year to Fort Collins — the home of Colorado State University about 60 miles (96 kilometers) north of Denver.
"No matter what we find out happened, my son is a good man," he told the newspaper. "He served his country well. Even if he was involved, and I'm not saying he was, it would just indicate that he was in a kind of a bad place.
"This whole affair has been exhausting. Here in Fort Collins, that sort of thing is not what we do," Michael Giaquinto said.
According to an arrest affidavit, the younger Giaquinto acknowledged damaging the mosque. Investigators said they also found items at the man's apartment that linked him to the vandalism.
He is being held on $7,500 bail, and booking documents do not indicate if he has hired an attorney.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group, said there have been 35 attacks on mosques so far this year — ranging from arson to torn Qurans — compared with 19 between January and March last year.
The group believes people who may have hidden their anti-Muslim views in the past have been emboldened to act by the election of President Donald Trump, who called for a ban on Muslims entering the country during his campaign.
In response, more mosques have installed surveillance video and police have become aware of the trend, group spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said.
Police haven't said what led them to Joseph Giaquinto in the Colorado incident.
About 1,000 people gathered Sunday at the mosque for a rally organized by a rabbi and many supporters have made donations online to pay for repairs and improved security.
Police Chief John Hutto, who attended the rally, said he hoped the arrest sends a message that the community will not tolerate acts of hatred.
"While the building can be repaired, this incident caused deeper hurt that won't just go away." he said in a statement.
Last month, someone was seen on security video throwing a rock through a window at the Colorado Muslim Society mosque near Denver but no arrests have been made and investigators say they have exhausted their leads.