San Francisco mosque vandalism suspect denies hate crime

A man accused of using a skateboard to vandalize a San Francisco mosque pleaded not guilty Friday as his attorney denied hate crime allegations.

The court appearance by Robert Gray, 35, in San Francisco Superior Court came shortly after supporters rallied outside the mosque, denouncing what they called a clear case of anti-Muslim hate.

"It makes me feel reassured that people care. I can only say it speaks volumes that so many people of different ethnicities and such a diverse community come together to basically show solidarity," mosque Imam Mohammed Alnuzaili said of the support from the community when the crime happened during the holy month of Ramadan.


San Francisco mosque vandalized more than once during Ramadan

A mosque in San Francisco has been vandalized at least twice in the last week, apparently by the same man, prompting community members to call for more protection.

San Francisco police said Gray is the man seen on video using his skateboard to break windows at Masjid Al-Tawheed mosque at Polk and Sutter streets on April 4.

"He was armed with what I'm saying is a skateboard," said San Francisco Assistant Police Chief David Lazar. "He damaged and vandalized this mosque, broke some windows behind us. He got into his car and fled."

Police said Gray came back five days later.

"He made his way inside, made his way to the seating area, the mosque escorted him out, called us, we couldn’t find him," Lazar said.

Authorities said the suspect came back the next day and was arrested with the help of the community.

"We’re going to continue as a police department to be vigilant," Lazar said. "We will drive by the mosque and places of worship."

On Friday, Gray pleaded not guilty to felony vandalism and a hate crime.

Prosecutors said Gray had a "fixation" on the mosque and that he was out on bail at the time of the crime after being accused of residential burglary in San Mateo County.

His attorney asked for reasonable bail, arguing that although windows were broken, no one was hurt.

The judge agreed with the prosecutor that Gray's criminal conduct was escalating and denied bail.

"We don’t believe there’s any indication that there’s a hate crime at all," Gray's attorney Deputy Public Defender Jack Lamar Jr. said outside court.

He said he's seen no evidence his client made hateful statements during his second visit to the mosque, as the district attorney alleges.

"It doesn’t appear that these statements have any sort of racial or religious animus attached to them whatsoever. I think that that’s perception," Lamar said.

Those who came out to support the mosque disagree, including Hala Hijazi of the Interfaith Council, citing "the fear that he has instilled on the community, especially on women and children and elderly that attend the mosque."

Assemblymember Matt Haney said, "When there’s such a blatant attack, such a blatant act of hate on a religious institution on a community, we stand together."

Henry Lee is a KTVU crime reporter. E-mail Henry at and follow him on Twitter @henrykleeKTVU and