California man accused of hate crime in
stabbing near mosque
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[December 13, 2016]
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A man has been
arrested on suspicion of committing an anti-Muslim hate crime and
another was being sought by authorities after the weekend stabbing of a
worshiper near a Southern California mosque, police said on Monday.
Coming amid a nationwide surge in harassment and intimidation of Muslims
reported by the FBI, the incident occurred late Saturday night in the
town of Simi Valley, about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, according
to police Commander Robert Brill.
The confrontation began as a verbal altercation that escalated into a
physical fight between the two suspects and the victim, who had attended
prayer services at the Masjid Al-Rasool mosque that evening, and a
number of his friends, Brill said.
Officers responding to the incident found the victim suffering from
non-life-threatening stab wounds, but the two suspects had fled, Brill
One, identified as John Matteson, 29, was soon located and taken into
custody. He was treated at an area hospital for injuries from the fight
and later booked into the Ventura County jail on felony charges of
committing a hate crime and making criminal threats, as well as a
misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace, Brill said.
"The preliminary investigation indicated the victim was targeted because
of his appearance and association with the mosque," police said in a
The second man, also in his late 20s, was still at large, Brill said.
Investigators were told the incident began when Matteson approached the
mosque asking to use the restroom and was turned away with the
explanation that the bathroom was not open to the public, according to a
police spokesman, Sergeant Travis Coffey.
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The suspect, who reportedly smelled of alcohol, returned with
another man and began insulting members of the mosque with racial
slurs, sparking a fight in which the suspect stabbed another
worshiper, Coffey told Reuters.
Ventura County court records show Matteson has had several run-ins
with the law - convicted on three occasions during the past year of
disturbing the peace or of public intoxication, and in 2015 of
making terrorist threats. None were charged as hate crimes.
Civil rights groups have voiced alarm at what they say has been a
spike in attacks targeting Muslims, Hispanics, blacks and other
minorities since the Nov. 8 presidential election victory of
Republican Donald Trump.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported last month that 2015
saw a 67 percent increase from the previous year in hate crimes
against Muslims. The Council on American-Islamic Relations of
Greater Los Angeles said it has received a number of reports of hate
incidents against Muslims in Southern California in recent weeks.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Andrew Hay and Tom Brown)
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