Court documents show that a Minnesota man’s defense for spray-painting hate messages and symbols on a local mosque is that it was all a “joke.”
The Moorhead Fargo Islamic Community Center was vandalized with hateful, spray-painted phrases — including “Death to Islam,” “women can’t vote” and others — and a swastika. The Moorhead man accused of the crime said it was all a “joke” to get a rise out of the community and the media, the complaint states. He insisted he doesn’t “hate them.”
Benjamin Enderle, 22, is charged felony harassment and felony criminal damage to property, according to the Moorhead Police Department.
Moorhead police responded to the vandalism call around 5:18 a.m. on Sunday morning (April 25). Police reviewed surveillance footage, which showed “a lone suspect” arriving around 11:37 p.m. the night before, according to the complaint.
Police released still photos of the surveillance footage, in hopes that the public could identify the culprit.
That’s when a Walmart employee pointed police to Enderle.
Upon seeing the images, the employee combed through sales records of reed spray paint. Walmart security footage appeared to capture the suspect buying the spray paint at about 11:28 a.m., just over 12 hours before committing the crime, according to the complaint.
Officers got a search warrant for Enderle, his home and his vehicle, and took him into custody around 5:52 p.m. on Tuesday (April 27).
Here’s what Enderle said when he was taken into custody, according to the complaint:
“During that conversation, the defendant admitted he had spray painted the Center and said he did it as a joke. The defendant stated he doesn’t ‘hate them’. He further stated he did it to get a reaction from the community and the media. The defendant stated that he acted alone and did not have any help from his roommate.”
Enderle was booked into the Clay County Jail. He appeared in court Thursday (April 29).
“I regretted doing it right after I did it,” he told the judge.
Since it happened, the community has banded together to support those impacted by the vandalism.
CAIR-MN, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is Muslim civil rights and legal advocacy organization that condemned the vandalism.
"We call on the FBI, law enforcement, and elected officials to investigate & condemn this latest hate crime attack targeting the Muslim community in the Moorhead/Fargo area during the holy month of Ramadan.
"We know the threats from white supremacy is on the rise and we need law enforcement to do more to quake these threats."
A Go Fund Me campaign was established to help the mosque upgrade its security and other needs following the hate crime. It has raised more than $27,600 of its $50,000 goal as of Thursday afternoon.
CAIR-MN also organized an outdoor event proclaiming Moorhead United Against Hate. It’s slated for Saturday afternoon (May 1).
Photo: Moorhead Police Department