Police identify mosque arson suspect - Albuquerque Journal

Police identify mosque arson suspect

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

A criminal complaint and arrest warrant affidavit identifies 43-year-old Isela Camarena as the person wanted for deliberately setting a fire at the base of one the doors to the Islamic Center of New Mexico late last month.

The document was filed in Metropolitan Court on Monday by an Albuquerque Police Department officer investigating the incident, which was captured on security cameras at the Islamic Center on Yale SE.

Isela Camarena

Police are searching for Camarena, who is facing charges of arson and negligent arson. It was unclear if she would additionally be charged with a hate crime, as mosque officials have requested.

According to the court document, a woman entered the grounds of the Islamic Center early Nov. 29 and, after unsuccessful attempts to gain access through locked building doors, she started a fire next to a door using combustible items from a trash receptacle. She also took some of the burning trash and set small fires in an outdoor playground area.

Neighbors who saw the smoke ran over and extinguished the fires before Albuquerque Fire Rescue arrived.

Mosque spokesman Tahir Gauba said the same woman entered the building prior to the start of Sunday school on Nov. 7 and unsuccessfully tried to start a carpet fire in the prayer hall. When a fire alarm was triggered, the woman ran out while allegedly yelling an anti-Islamic obscenity, he said.

Gauba said the same woman also entered the building during the evening of Oct. 31, where she confronted the imam, Mahmoud Eldenawi, and threatened to burn down the mosque.

The APD and FBI previously released to the public images of the suspect from the mosque’s security cameras.

A relative of Camarena contacted authorities, was shown security camera images and positively identified her, the court document said.

Damage to the property includes $9,000 to replace the artificial playground turf, Gauba said, and between $3,000 and $5,000 to clean the brick, cement and other areas charred by the fire, and where burning material had melted into the surface.

The center expects to spend an additional $20,000 or more to update its security gate, motion sensors and camera system, he said.

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