Ramsey County prosecutors have charged a suspect for vandalizing a St. Paul mosque in May, but the suspect remains at large and her motive remains unknown.
Prosecutors allege that Sherrice Shatanya Williams, 45, threw a chunk of concrete four times at the front door of Masjid As-Sunnah the morning of May 12. Her alleged actions, captured on multiple security cameras, shattered a glass door and caused more than $1,700 in damages, according to charges filed against Williams.
Williams, who lives in St. Paul and has no permanent address, is charged with one count of first-degree property damage. Williams was not in custody as of early Thursday afternoon.
Police, who identified Williams based on an anonymous tip, have not determined Williams’ motive for allegedly damaging the mosque.
Masjid As Sunnah director Abdulmajid Mohamed told Sahan Journal that Williams does not appear familiar to the mosque’s congregants, and does not have a direct relationship with the mosque.
Abdulmajid said he spoke with a police officer last week, who said the suspect could have mental health issues. Abdulmajid said even if that’s the case, he believes the vandalism is a hate crime because the suspect targeted the mosque with violence.
“If this is mental illness, we have to have some sort of answer from local and state government to know: What are they doing to prevent it?” he said.
Abdulmajid added that the estimated damage from the vandalism is higher than the $1,700 prosecutors estimated. That figure, he said, just covers the cost of replacing the broken glass.
The mosque is also planning to replace the damaged door and to add security measures, he said. An online fundraiser for the repair of the mosque lists a goal of $10,000.
Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council for American Islamic Relations, said the charges filed against the suspect brings some relief to the local Muslim community.
“We appreciate the immediate response and apprehension of this individual, and look forward to learning more,” Jaylani said. “We’ve been under attack and we want to know more about these incidents.”
An anonymous tipster told police that the woman’s first name was Sherrice, and officers recognized her as someone who frequents the vicinity of the Dorothy Day Center, which provides services to homeless people in downtown St. Paul, according to the criminal complaint against Williams.
Williams was the last suspect identified in four attacks on Twin Cities mosques that occurred within four weeks of each other this spring. The attacks include alleged arsons in April at Masjid Omar Islamic Center and Masjid Al Rahma, both located in Minneapolis. Prosecutors charged Jackie Rahm Little, 36, in both of the incidents. A motive in the cases is unknown, but prosecutors have described the charge against Little as a federal hate crime.
Prosecutors charged Said Murekezi with arson and burglary for setting a fire inside the Oromo American Tawhid Islamic Center in St. Paul on May 17. Murekezi, 42, told investigators that he burned the mosque as a protest against homelessness. Prosecutors have said bias does not appear to be a factor in Said’s case.