Five teenagers have been arrested for disrupting religious services at a mosque in upstate New York after allegedly driving by the mosque during Ramadan services, honking their horns and firing a shotgun.
The five, who are all 17 and 18, have allegedly driven by the World Sufi Foundation mosque in Carlton, N.Y., during Ramadan services twice over the past week, yelling obscenities.
Last Friday, one of them also fired a shotgun into the ground. No one was hurt. He was charged with criminal possession of a weapon, a felony; the others have only been charged with disrupting religious services, a misdemeanor, but more charges are expected.
Then, on Monday, when the teens drove by screaming and honking their horns, members of the mosque came running outside. One member was swiped by one of their cars and was treated for cuts and bruises. Prosecutors say they are investigating whether the member ran into the car or the driver swerved into him.
After they left, several members of the mosque got into their cars and drove to a boat dock on nearby Lake Ontario looking for them. They found the teens and cornered them for half an hour until police arrived to arrest them.
Four have been released until a court date later this week, according to the sheriff’s department. The fifth, charged with a felony, is being held on $10,000 bond. Their names are Mark Vendetti and Tim Weader, 17, and Dylan Phillips, Jeff Donahue and Anthony Ogden, 18. Vendetti is accused of firing the shotgun.
The local district attorney said more charges may include vehicular assault or leaving the scene of an incident.
It’s too soon to know whether hate crimes charges are appropriate, he told TPM.
The D.A., Joseph Cardone, said the teenagers admitted to being at the mosque and to firing the gun. Their explanation for the shot, he said, was that they were scared when they saw mosque members coming outside.
“I don’t know what sense that makes,” he said. “They’re the ones who drove to this location.”
Cardone also told the New York Times that the teens used “very poor judgment.”
“It’s just kids doing stupid things,” he said, “but it got more serious when they ran into a member of the mosque and they discharged a weapon. And we are taking it seriously.”
Cardone told us the mosque experiences episodes like this every few years, and are always perpetrated by “youngsters who are misinformed about what’s going on there” and who call the mosque a “cult house.”
One member told the Democrat and Chronicle that past incidents have included break-ins, broken windows, thrown eggs and an incident where someone set the mosque’s fence on fire.
Members also told the Democrat and the Times that they were disappointed in police response times to this and past incidents.
Carlton is a town of less than 3,000 (about the same population it had in 1892) between Buffalo and Rochester.
Cardone said the mosque’s location is very remote and rural.