Man arrested for allegedly threatening worshipers at Phoenix mosque

Man arrested for allegedly threatening worshipers at Phoenix mosque
© Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

A man was arrested for allegedly intimidating and threatening worshippers at a mosque in Phoenix.

The Phoenix Police Department on Saturday night arrested Noel Thomas Becht on charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and threatening and intimidating, according to The Associated Press. Becht remained in custody at the Maricopa County Jail as of Monday.

Becht initially entered the United Islamic Center Saturday evening around 7 p.m. He asked about the Muslim religion and requested to sit in on a prayer service, police say.

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He then reportedly started wandering around the mosque and entering rooms and areas he should not have been. He also asked worshippers about regular service times held at the mosque.

When questioned by a mosque leader why he was there and showed interest in the religion, police say Becht "put his finger to his neck and made a sawing motion.” 

The United Islamic Center thanked the community and police department in a Facebook post following the incident.

“We have seen the true strength and the unity that are present in our community and elsewhere,” the post read. “Muslims and non-Muslims alike came to show us their support and to work hand-in-hand with us to unroot hate, radicalism and supremacy in all forms.”

Police reportedly increased patrols at Phoenix-area mosques following Becht's arrest.

Becht’s arrest came just days after mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand resulted in the deaths of at least 50 people, putting Islamic centers around the world on high alert with added security.