September 14, 2016 at 11:17 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Man charged with arson at Pulse nightclub gunman’s mosque

hate crimes, gay news, Washington Blade

Police in St. Lucie County, Fla., have arrested a man in connection with a fire at a mosque the Pulse nightclub gunman once attended.

Florida authorities on Wednesday announced they have arrested a man in connection with setting a fire at the mosque the Pulse nightclub gunman attended.

The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said that Joseph Schreiber, 32, of Port St. Lucie, was arrested in Fort Pierce.

Maj. David Thompson of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office told reporters at a press conference that investigators were able to use tips from the public and surveillance videos at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce and from streets near Schreiber’s home to identify Schreiber.

Thompson said investigators were able to match Schreiber to the person who was seen fleeing the mosque on a motorcycle shortly before the fire broke out early Monday morning. He also told reporters that Schreiber made “multiple” anti-Islamic posts and comments on social media.

Schreiber has been charged with arson, which would become a first-degree felony under Florida’s hate crimes enhancement that Thompson said prosecutors plan to apply. The Orlando Sentinel reported Schreiber is being held in the St. Lucie County Jail without bail.

The arson charge carries a potential 30-year prison sentence.

Schreiber could also serve a 30-year mandatory minimum sentence because of his prior felony convictions. Thompson said that Schreiber could receive a life sentence.

“Schreiber is known to law enforcement,” said Thompson.

Schreiber allegedly set the fire three months to the day after Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured 53 others inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, which is roughly two hours from Fort Pierce. The blaze also coincided with the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the beginning of Eid al-Adha, a four-day Muslim holiday.

WPTV, a West Palm Beach television station, reported the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations welcomed Schreiber’s arrest.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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