Vandalism aftermath leaves Islamic Center with gratitude, disappointment over judicial proceedings

Samantha Ye

The Islamic Center of Fort Collins holds a rally after a man vandalized the property early Sunday morning. (David Johnson | Collegian)

After being vandalized seven months ago, the Islamic Center of Fort Collins remains both grateful for the community support yet disillusioned with the fairness of the judicial system.

In March, a hooded man threw several large rocks and a Bible through the ICFC’s glass doors and into the prayer room, overturned outdoor furniture, knocked over bikes in the bike rack and smashed plastic outlet covers.

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Police later arrested Joseph Scott Giaquinto, who admitted to the crime and is being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder at a medical center in Wyoming while awaiting trial.

Immediately following the vandalism, thousands of community members gathered outside the mosque to show solidarity, and in the following weeks, more voiced their support.

“A lot of people came to our support in-person, sending us love letters, supporting, encouraging phone calls, donations, and then the connection with the city officials and elected government,” said Tawfik Aboellail, the president of the ICFC. “I think it was overwhelming — overwhelmingly positive.”

board, letters, islam center
Letters of support and encouragement adorn a corkboard at the Islamic Center. (Samantha Ye | Collegian)

Dozens of letters that came from school children, professionals and other community members, have been pinned to a board and display case outside Aboellail’s office.

ICFC also received donations from the community through a GoFundMe the center created after the vandalism.

Around $26,000 was raised for the ICFC through the GoFundMe and received additional contributions from other community members. In total, around $55,000 was donated to the Islamic Center.

About $3,000 was used to replace the broken panels of the doors, and roughly $13,500 was used to update the camera surveillance system. Additional funds went into the Islamic Center’s school system and some building improvements.

The new surveillance system allows ICFC officials to monitor the building at all times and alert them if an alarm goes off. Police reviewed the security of the building, and although some improvements can be made, Aboellail said it is mostly secure.

ICFC has put in place new policies to ensure the safety of members in addition to the surveillance system.

The mosque no longer allows people to stay past 11 p.m. , and women and children cannot be by themselves in the building and must be accompanied by someone guarding the doors to ensure there are no incidents.

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While there have been no signs of new suspicious activity, Aboellail said the Islamic Center remains vigilant.

“The one thing on our minds now is how lenient the court and the judicial system (has been) on the perpetrator,” Aboellail said. “As I mentioned to the judge, if one of us did a similar thing, I think the judgment would have been swift and unwavering. But, in this case, the perpetrator is getting one lenient treatment after another.”

In late June, Giaquinto was jailed after missing two court appearances. However, in September, the Eighth Judicial District Judge Julie Kunce Field lowered his bond to $5,500, so he could get treatment for PTSD at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Aboellail protested the decision at the time and still does because the treatment of the perpetrator has left many ICFC members to question the the fairness of the courts and judicial system.

“We wanted this case tried with the ultimate justice so it can deter others from doing a similar thing to other buildings or to our building,” Aboellail said. “But, that unfortunately didn’t happen.”

Aboellail said he wants people in the community to talk about how to make the judicial system better and more equal because this case suggests it is not.

“For all the Fort Collins community, we need to stay connected, protect one another, look for one another’s interests, and keep it a beautiful place for all to live in harmony and peace,” Aboellail said. “I don’t mean to take the law in our hands, but this is what we got and this is what we have to work with: that we support one another and protect one another because apparently, the government is not very concerned about protecting the minorities right now.”

Collegian reporter Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.