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City vandalism incident ‘more than likely to be a hate crime’

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CALCIUM — At least 100 members of the Islamic Center of Northern NY turned out Wednesday night to support one of their own and, according to group president Moid Khan, to “promote a better understanding between American Muslims and the American mainstream.”

He said the meeting was called to address the vandalism of a pickup truck owned by one of the members, an incident that Watertown police Lt. Joseph R. Donoghue assured the group is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

Lt. Donoghue came to the mosque to inform the group of the latest developments in the case, as well as answer any questions the members had about the vandalism of Issa Alzouma’s truck on Dec. 7.

Early that morning Mr. Alzouma, a Watertown resident and native of Niger, found three windows of his truck smashed and note tucked under his windshield wiper that read:

“U (expletive) (racial slur) I know where u work too!!! U better watch your back!!!” the note stated, according to a transcript in a police report. “(Expletive) Muslim and (racial slur)! Quit your job or else.”

During his presentation to the group, Lt. Donoghue stressed that city police are working hard to find the person responsible.

“We want to bring justice to the victim,” Lt. Donoghue said. “We’d like nothing more than to be able to solve it.”

Members asked Lt. Donoghue to clarify previous comments from city police made in December in which Det. Richard J. Purvis said there was no evidence to label the vandalism as a hate crime.

Though Lt. Donoghue said it would take more than just the note found on the truck to charge a suspect with a hate crime, which would carry a harsher penalty, he said “it’s more than likely to be a hate crime.”

“If we find our guy, it will be hard for him to prove otherwise,” Lt. Donoghue said.

So far, no suspects have been arrested in connection with the vandalism that left Mr. Alzouma’s truck with a shattered windshield and broken front and back windows on the driver’s side.

Due to the contents of the note, police said the incident could be tied to Mr. Alzouma’s workplace.

Mr. Alzouma was working as a security guard with Securitas Security Services at the Dulles State Office Building at the time.

Wednesday night, after Lt. Donoghue spoke, many members of the Islamic community present said they felt satisfied with the answers given.

“His reassurance is greatly appreciated,” Mr. Khan said.

“The answers were good,” Mr. Alzouma said. “I feel assured that my community is behind me.”

Mr. Alzouma, as well as others in attendance, noted that the inclusion of the FBI has made them feel that the investigation is even stronger than before.

Watertown police were approached by agents from the FBI’s Syracuse office and the bureau has assisted in the investigation, according to Lt. Donoghue.

The Islamic Center of Northern New York was established in 1982 at its current Calcium location and is made up of about 120 people from 30 families from across the area, 30 percent of whom were born in the United States. Mr. Khan said around 15 percent of its members are military personnel and 20 percent are converts to the religion.

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