Three arrested in connection with vandalism at Mountlake Terrace mosque on November 2, 2001.

  • By Cassandra Tate
  • Posted 4/09/2008
  • Essay 8581

On November 2, 2001, Mountlake Terrace police arrest a 36-year-old man and two teenage boys on charges associated with an early morning attack on the Masjid Omar al-Farooq Mosque. Police said the three had shattered six windows and set a curtain in the building on fire, causing an estimated $1,500 in damage. An alert neighbor stamped out the flames and notified police. The attempted arson was one of a series of retaliatory acts aimed at Seattle-area Muslims and Arab Americans in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Shawn Deroy Urvina, 36, of Auburn, was charged with felony malicious harassment for his role in the attack on the eight-year-old mosque, located in a working-class neighborhood in the 5500 block of 238th Street SW. Two Mountlake Terrace juveniles, ages 17 and 15, were charged with harassment in Snohomish County Juvenile Court. The younger youth also was charged with second-degree arson. The older youth pled guilty and agreed to testify against the other two.

According police reports, Urvina and the two juveniles -- his brothers-in-law -- had been drinking heavily in a house near the mosque when one of them said he wanted to "stick up for our country." They walked to the mosque, picked up some rocks, and threw them at the front-door windows. They then ran to hide, and then returned to pelt more windows, this time with apples. After leaving again, they returned once more, when one of the juveniles allegedly said: "Let's show those Arabians what's up. I'm going to light the church on fire." A curtain was ablaze when a barking dog alerted neighbors.

Benny Greatorex, who lived across the street from the mosque, heard the dog and woke his 20-year-old son, Tad. The younger Greatorex, a construction worker, raced across the street, kicked in the basement door, and pulled the burning curtain from its rod. He then ran outside, looking for the culprits. He saw them nearby, hiding in bushes. They fled. Tracking dogs led officers to a nearby home on 239th Place Southwest, where police arrested Urvina and the two juveniles. "The people at the mosque have always been nice to my family," Greatorex told a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter. "There's other ways of protecting America, and what (the suspects) did, that's not the real deal."

The mosque's director, Zafer Khan, said the actions of the good Samaritans and of the police reinforced his belief that most members of the community condemn acts of violence and intolerance. "The most beautiful thing that has come from this is knowing we have wonderful neighbors who nipped this in the bud," he said. "In America, everything works out for the best" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 3, 2001).

Mountlake Terrace police Commander Mike Mitchell said the suspects told investigators they thought they were protecting America. "They're definitely not history majors," Mitchell added. "America was founded to protect religious freedoms" (The Herald, November 7, 2001).

Sources: Lewis Kamb, "Samaritan Puts Out Fire at Mosque; 3 Arrested," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 3, 2001, p. A-7; "MLT Neighbors Prove Their True Blue Colors," The Herald (Everett), November 7, 2001, p. B-7; "Mosque Vandalism Brings Charges," Ibid., November 22, 2001, p. C-2; "Man Charged with Vandalizing Mountlake Terrace Mosque," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 23, 2001; "Mosque Damage Charges Are Filed," The Seattle Times, November 24, 2001, p. B-3.

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