Posted: Sep 21, 2010 6:21 PM by MIKE MAGNOLI
Updated: Sep 21, 2010 6:25 PM
The F.B.I. is investigating how a car was torched today in the parking lot of the Islamic Center of Lafayette.
Due to the sensitive location and the mysterious circumstances, whoever is responsible could be charged with a hate crime.
As traffic passed by the Islamic Center of Lafaytte Tuesday morning, drivers wanted to know what was happening:
"I live right over there and last night i saw the flames, the glowing through the trees," said Shelli Cignorelli.
When she learned that a small car was set on fire and left to burn right in front of the mosque, she was surprised, but didn't want to elaborate: immediately recognizing the implications:
"I'm ex military, I have an opinion but I'd rather not say."
Investigators spent much of the morning, looking for clues from the charred vehicle. Officials say they're treating this as an arson case and if this was intended to be some kind of a message or political statement, this could count as a hate crime.
Sheila Thorne, FBI spokeswoman, tells KATC-- the feds are interested in this... as it relates to a possible hate crime... due to the proximity of the car to the Islamic Center. They're looking into the possibility that a violation occurred
Agents were going door to door, asking if anyone heard or saw anything last night.
Megan Oliver told us, "The FBI guys were here to question me, they asked what time I went to bed because they're not sure when this happened."
The Lafayette Fire Department confirms that Bilal Bashear, a member of the Islamic Center lived across the street from the building and owned the vehicle that was burned.