Investigators are calling it a hate crime after a Fresno man was arrested on suspicion of vandalizing the Islamic Cultural Center on Christmas day. images

Asif Mohammad Khan, a 28-year-old Fresno resident, is the man suspected of vandalizing the Islamic Cultural Center. Khan’s relatives are claiming mental illness, specifically schizophrenia, and not an act of hatred that led to his criminal actions. “It is a case of mental illness,” said his sister, Samia Khan. “There’s no question about that.”

Khan was booked into jail on charges including felony vandalism after he committed over $10,000 in damages, including further damages to the nearby California Digestive Disease Center’s medical office. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer found broken glass and a bleach stained American flag inside of the Islamic center that led him and other investigators to conclude that Khan was committing hate crimes. But a more recent interview with Khan has led the investigative team to reverse the initial theory.

“It was obviously not as we thought,” said Dyer, who also confirmed that the FBI was allowed to conclude whether the hate-crime allegations were warranted. After Khan’s confession, in which he told officers that he was disgruntled by people at the Islamic center for bullying, authorities are zeroing in on concrete punishments.

Khan’s sister, Samia, told law enforcement officers that doctors in 2009 diagnosed her brother with schizophrenia. Chief Dyer said this changes the context of the investigation. “I’m not here to provide his defense but I do believe it provides some form of explanation and may serve to reduce some fear,” said Dyer.

Samia also mentioned that her brother hadn’t taken his medication in the days leading up to the incident. She apologized for her brother’s actions in a written letter, and said her family is proud to be part of Fresno’s Muslim community. “We hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive his mistake,” the letter said. “Understand the health issue has brought us here today.”

Islamic Cultural Center manager Reza Nekumanesh released a statement: “Thank you to all those who did come out and show our center support.”

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