Police make arrest in Umatul Islam Center break-in and vandalism

Sheikh Ahmed Ibrahim received supportive letters following a February robbery at the Umatul Islam Center. Photo by Michelle Bruch

Police have arrested a man suspected in a Feb. 24 break-in at the Umatul Islam Center at 3015 2nd Ave. S.

The 56-year-old man is suspected in more than a dozen East Lake Street burglaries, according to Insp. Mike Sullivan, including incidents at business and office complexes near 2nd, 3rd and 4th avenues that are still under investigation. He said the businesses had been hit several times in the past three weeks, with significant damages.

“He is the subject of over 170 Minneapolis police reports,” said Sgt. Jarrod Kunze. “Currently he is being investigated and is under arrest as the suspect in about a dozen burglaries. … It’s the patrol officers wearing uniforms and driving squad cars that were able to go out, find him, know where he was and bring this short crime spree to a conclusion.”

The suspect had not yet been charged at press time.

Equipment and files were stolen at the Umatul Islam Center, and damages are estimated at $5,000. An Umatul board member recently pointed out where the suspect damaged a glass door with a hammer, shattered glass throughout the center and punched holes in doors. Earlier in the month, he said the suspect rolled out a trash can in order to damage an exterior surveillance camera.

The Minnesota Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) raised questions about the motive for the break-in.

“He was breaking doors and not entering them,” said CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein. “He broke into a Sunday school, and there was really nothing there to take. … It’s a scary thing for our community.”

He said the arrest is helping to ease fears, however.

The Umatul mosque has been based on 2nd Avenue for nine years. It’s open for prayers throughout the day, and offers services in family consulting, marriage, youth programming, Islamic study and conflict mediation.

Sheikh Ahmed Ibrahim said through a translator that the center has strived to become involved with the community, meeting with the mayor’s office, the FBI and U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger throughout the past year. He said the center appreciates the recent wave of community support, including a visit from Gov. Mark Dayton. He pulled out a stack of kind letters he’s received since the break-in.

“I struggle to find words that could come close to express how sad and disheartening it was to hear what happened,” states one handwritten letter. “I hope you will rebuild and continue your good works knowing you have the respect of so many. I only wish I could help more. Stay strong. I am not Muslim, I am human.”