Man charged with Houston mosque fire was a member

By Shawn Price   |   Dec. 31, 2015 at 4:38 AM

HOUSTON, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- The man charged Wednesday in the burning of a Houston mosque on Christmas was a member of the mosque.

Gary Nathaniel Moore -- also known as Jamal Moore -- was arrested and charged with first-degree arson. He was being held at Harris County sheriff's jail on $100,000 bond.

Moore, 37, told investigators he has regularly attended the store-front mosque for five years, coming up to five times a day for prayer. The motive for the fire is still unknown.

Moore said he left the mosque at about 2 p.m. on Dec. 25, court documents indicate. He was the last person to leave the building before the fire and said he only returned after hearing about the fire from a friend.

"We are just looking into it ourselves," said MJ Khan, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, which runs the mosque.

Khan said he doesn't know Moore and does not consider him a regular. Nor is he a dues-paying member of the society, Khan said.

Moore was interviewed at the scene the day of the fire and investigators, using a search warrant, recovered a backpack and clothing similar to what Moore was seen wearing in surveillance video. They also found half a two-pack of charcoal lighter fluid that matched lighter fluid found at the mosque.

Investigators found the fire had multiple points of origin, leading to the conclusion it was intentionally set.

Moore was arrested at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday at his home, where he lives with his wife and children.

Khan urged the local Muslim community to be patient and told members "You have absolutely no reasons to be fearful." He said the community should be buoyed by the support from other outside groups like Interfaith Ministries and the Anti-Defamation League.

"This tragedy has definitely brought us together," Khan said.

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