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In a distant echo of the mass murder last month in Norway, a young man who once described himself to police as a “Christian warrior” and talked about a jihad against Muslims is in federal custody in Oregon on federal hate crime and arson charges.
Cody Seth Crawford, 24, of Corvallis, Ore., was arrested Wednesday on a federal indictment accusing him of the Nov. 28 arson of the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center near his home.
The firebombing of the mosque came two days after Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a former Oregon State University student, was arrested in a terror plot to detonate a car bomb during at Portland’s annual holiday tree-lighting ceremony. Mohamud, now 20, who worshipped at the Corvallis mosque, is awaiting trial.
Crawford’s arrest came a little over a month after Anders Breivik, who described himself as a “Christian” warrior, murdered 77 people in Norway, most of them teenagers at a youth camp. Breivik, who repeatedly cited American Islamophobes in a kind of manifesto he wrote to explain the July 22 attack, has admitted the murders of people who he thought were encouraging Muslim immigration to Norway.
In the United States, Crawford is accused of two federal crimes in an indictment that is partially sealed from public inspection. In a redacted companion document, he is accused of damage to religious property and use of fire to commit a felony.
The indictment accuses Crawford of carrying out the crime “because of the race, color, and ethnic characteristics of an individual and individuals associated with that property.”
He was ordered held without bond as a flight risk and a danger to the community after an appearance Thursday in Eugene before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Coffin.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William “Bud” Fitzgerald told the court that Crawford suffers from “a pattern of bipolarity and alcohol addiction,” The Oregonian reported.
FBI agents who arrested Crawford Wednesday afternoon smelled alcohol on his breath, Fitzgerald said.
Bryan Lessley, assistant federal public defender, told the court that Crawford “has very severe mental health issues.”
Crawford was released in June from a six-month civil commitment to a mental hospital. He was sent there after being arrested by police in McMinnville, Ore., for allegedly harassing and threatening a convenience store clerk who refused to sell him alcohol on Dec. 14, 2010. Two days later, police took him to a hospital after a witness saw Crawford waving a knife outside his home.
During those contacts with police, Crawford made rants about Muslims and described himself as a Christian warrior, The Oregonian reported.
“You look like Obama,” Crawford told a McMinnville police officer who arrested him on Dec. 14. “You are a Muslim like him. Jihad goes both ways, Christians can jihad too.”
In 2009, he was charged with third-degree assault for throwing urine on a prison guard.
Shortly after the firebombing of the mosque, investigators found a blue Maglite flashlight on a sidewalk near the mosque. DNA tests identified Crawford as a “potential major contributor of the DNA” found on the flashlight, according to court documents. A plastic 2-liter strawberry soda bottle and a brick were found near a broken window of the mosque. Lab tests showed the bottle contained gasoline and mineral oil, the court documents say.
“Burning a house of worship because of hatred toward members of one religion is not just an attack on that religion, it is an attack on our core American values,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said of the case.
Dwight C. Holton, the U.S. Attorney for Oregon, said freedom of religion “is essential to who we are as Americans. We will not tolerate attacks based on faith.”
Greg Fowler, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon, said the arrest in mosque firebombing demonstrates the FBI’s mission to “protect the rights of all Americans as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.”