Updated Sept. 14 at 7:10 p.m. — Authorities arrested Joseph Michael Schreiber, 32, on Wednesday without incident, after surveillance footage linked him to the arson fire.
Maj. Thompson said in a news conference today that police obtained a search warrant for Schreiber’s home and found that the 32-year-old owned “a motorcycle consistent with the surveillance video footage.” Authorities also found anti-Islamic posts and comments on his social media.
Schreiber is being charged with one count of arson and could face up to 30 years in prison, police officials said in a statement on Facebook. Officials said a “Florida hate crime enhancement” was applied to the charge.
The mosque attended by Omar Mateen, the Orlando nightclub shooter, was intentionally set on fire Monday in an arson attack, according to law enforcement authorities.
The fire was extinguished at about 5 a.m. with no injuries.
“A fire at any place of worship is alarming, regardless of the circumstances,” the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “Video captured at the Fort Pierce Islamic Center shows an individual approached the east side of the building just moments before a flash is seen and the fire starts.”
Two callers driving in the area reported seeing flames from the roof of the building, the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said. Local law enforcement responded to the fire at 12:31 a.m.
The sheriff’s office said the individual in the video was a white or Hispanic male who arrived at the mosque on a motorcycle and was “carrying paper and a bottle of some type of liquid.”
When asked about the motive of the arson attack, Major David Thompson told reporters he did not want to speculate, but “we all know the implications of the date and the time of year that this is – the 9/11 anniversary. Is that related? I would not want to speculate, but certainly that is in the back of our minds.”
The arson attack also coincides with the beginning of Eid al-Adha, the Islamic holiday known as the Feast of Sacrifice.
“This is a horrible tragedy, not only for the Islamic Center, but for our community,” Maj. Thompson told reporters.
In a Facebook post, the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce asked people to “please keep us in your Du’as and prayers.”
Authorities are working to identify the individual in the surveillance video and have asked the public to call the sheriff’s office with tips. The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office has also released the 9-1-1 calls and mosque surveillance footage.
Mateen committed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history when he murdered 49 people and wounded 53 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando before being killed by law enforcement.
The Washington Post reports Mateen occasionally attended the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce for prayers. His sisters were also active volunteers there.