A man left a hoax explosive device at a mosque last week in Falls Church, Virginia, Fairfax County fire investigators say.
Chester H. Gore, 27, was charged with using a hoax explosive device on Thursday at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center on Row Street, off Leesburg Pike.
Gore, who has no fixed address, caused an estimated $200 damage to a gate at the mosque, officials said. He was charged with using the device, possession and use of illegal fireworks, entering the property of another for the purpose of causing damage based on religious conviction, and destruction of property.
According to the mosque's outreach director, Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, an intruder tried to enter the iron fence around the mosque about 2 a.m. Thursday and threw two smoke bombs and a Molotov cocktail toward the building. Members of the mosque who live in the neighborhood saw him, confronted him and he left, Abdul-Malik said.
Gore is being held without bond at the Fairfax County jail. It was unclear from county court records if he had retained a lawyer.
"You need to go back to where you came from" and "you need to accept Jesus," that man said, according to Abdul-Malik.
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The men who encountered Gore were acquainted with him, according to a Fairfax County police officer who spoke with the Falls Church News-Press, and "were concerned that something was going to happen to the mosque."
Members of the Northern Virginia Islamic center have experienced an uptick in anti-Muslim harassment since the terrorist attacks on Paris Nov. 13, Abdul-Malik said, including being insulted on streets and in public places in the area.
The imam urged his neighbors to fight Islamophobia and stereotypes about Muslims.
"The environment of intolerance and bigotry today gives these people a license to act out," he said. "There are people in our community who are falling into the dysfunctionality we saw after 9/11."
But the mosque will open its doors in response to the incidents at the church and toward its members, he said.
"Rather than lock down, our response is to open up," Abdul-Malik said. The mosque will host a Thanksgiving meal at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
"Our doors are going to be open to let our neighbors in," the imam said.