A Minnesota man accused of spray-painting swastikas and racist graffiti on a mosque during the holy month of Ramadan said he did it as a “joke," according to charges filed on Thursday.
Benjamin S. Enderle, 22, of Moorhead was charged with with felony second-degree property damage and gross-misdemeanor bias harassment in connection to the vandalism of the Moorhead-Fargo Islamic Community Center discovered on Saturday.
He made his first appearance in a Clay County District Court and told the judge that “I regretted doing it right after I did it.” His bond was set at $40,000 without conditions, or $20,000 with conditions, according to local outlet KVRR.
If convicted, Enderle faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The “hate-filled, profane messages” were found spray-painted on the siding, windows and doors of the building early Sunday, according to a statement from the city. The FBI assisted the local police department in the investigation.
CAIR-MN Condemns Hate Crime Attack on Moorhead Mosque Yesterday Night "We call on the FBI, law enforcement, and elected...Posted by CAIR-Minnesota (CAIR-MN) on Sunday, April 25, 2021
Surveillance images spotted a suspect on the property shortly after 11:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The vandalism included other Islamophobic phrases including “Death to Islam" and “Kane lives,” among others. On the women’s entrance to the house of worship, the words “Can’t Vote” were added. A window was also broken.
Images released to the public helped identify Enderle, according to the criminal complaint.
A Walmart employee in nearby Dilworth, Minn., contacted police about a customer who bought red spray paint late Saturday morning that matched the description of the suspect. The store representative helped law enforcement obtain a vehicle description and transaction information, leading to Enderle's arrest.
Enderle admitted to the vandalism and "did it as a joke," the complaint read.
He stated that he doesn’t “hate them” and said he wanted to “get a reaction from the community and the media,” according to the filing documents.
Hundreds of people of all different faiths showed up to the mosque on Monday with cleaning supplies to help scrub off the hateful messages, KVRR reported.
The mosque organized a GoFundMe fundraiser to upgrade security systems. It had raised more than $27,507 as of Thursday.
News of the attack, which occurred during the middle of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, was widely condemned, including at the United Nations.
Miguel Ángel Moratinos, the high representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, condemned the incident in a statement and said "no community should experience this kind of toxic hatred. He re-iterates that all forms of discrimination and acts of violence, targeting religious sites and places of worship as well as worshipers, regardless of their religion or belief, are unacceptable and unjustifiable."