A Moorhead man accused of spray-painting racially derogatory remarks and vulgarities on a Moorhead mosque over the weekend said he "did it to get a reaction," according to charges filed Thursday.
Benjamin S. Enderle, 22, was charged in Clay County District Court with felony second-degree property damage and gross-misdemeanor bias harassment.
Enderle had a court hearing Thursday and remains jailed ahead of another hearing on May 11. Court records do not list an attorney for him.
One day after the vandalism was spotted at the Moorhead-Fargo Islamic Community Center, hundreds of community members showed up Monday with brushes, chemicals and power washers and quickly cleaned off the messages, which included "Death to Islam," a swastika, a racial slur and other offensive graffiti. A window also was broken.
The mosque's video surveillance recorded images of the suspect on the property shortly after 11:30 p.m. Saturday, according to the criminal complaint. Those still images from the video released to the public proved crucial in finding Enderle.
A representative of the Walmart in nearby Dilworth, Minn., told police that he had video footage of someone buying red spray paint late Saturday morning and that person matched the suspect in the Islamic center video, the charges say.
The store representative provided police with a vehicle description and transaction information for the spray paint purchase that was made by Enderle, who was accompanied by another person.
Police determined the suspect was Enderle and arrested him Tuesday evening at his home.
Enderle admitted to the vandalism and "did it as a joke," the complaint read. "The defendant stated that he doesn't 'hate them.' He further stated he did it to get a reaction from the community and the media."
He added that neither his roommate nor anyone else helped him commit the vandalism.
He said he threw the paint can in his garbage, which had already been collected by the time his home was searched by law enforcement.
Ademola Hammed, the Islamic center's vice president, said Wednesday afternoon that the mosque's members were shaken by what happened to their house of worship.
"We were disturbed that such an act is aimed at us," Hammed said. "This is the first time this has happened. We have enjoyed peaceful coexistence with our community since the past four years of our existence."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482