Multiple police departments searching for a man who may pose a threat to local Muslim community

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GRANVILLE, W.Va. – On January 13, the Granville Police Department (GPD) received a call from the Domain at Town Centre Apartments stating there was an individual wearing a ‘Trump’ or ‘Make America Great Again’ hat asking about where the nearest mosque was.

“That was the interaction, and he left in a red Kia Sorrento — we believe it’s a red Kia Sorrento,” GPD Chief of Police Craig Corkrean said. “We are asking anyone who knows him to identify for us so we can speak to him.”

GPD Facebook post

The unknown individual has not committed any crimes; however, his actions have disturbed the Muslim community. This is according to Shams Khan, president of a local mosque.

At the request of the Morgantown Police Department (MPD), the name of Khan’s mosque and its location will be omitted to protect him and others.

Khan

Khan said the man’s actions are especially troubling, considering many members of his mosque live at Domain.

“Understandably, many are concerned because it was in such close proximity to them and it was very real,” Khan said.

Having seen what happened at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and at the Christchurch Mosque in New Zealand in recent years, Khan said members of his mosque are a little on edge about this incident. For that reason, the mosque is taking all the proper precautions to ensure safety.

“First and foremost, we put our faith in God, and we have utmost trust that he will protect us,” Khan said. “But beyond that, God has also told us that we need to do our part to take care of our personal safety and our property as well. And so we have numerous security measures of our own. And then, on top of that as a layer, we’re very fortunate and grateful for local authorities.”

Khan said he appreciates MPD for doing everything it can to investigate and keep his mosque safe.

In a statement, MPD said the following:

The MPD has received reports about this and are investigating. As a precaution, they are increasing patrols in the areas of those locations. Anybody with information should contact the MPD at 304-284-7522 extension 0.

MPD

According to MPD, the man who asked about the closest mosque didn’t mention synagogues, synagogues are also seeing increased patrols.

Rabbi Zalman

Rabbi Zalman Gurevitz, a Morgantown rabbi, said generally, security is something that he is always vigilant about.

“You can never let your guard down,” the rabbi said.

He, like Khan, referenced the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting as a turning point. In fact, Rabbi Zalman said that event was a turning point that made him increase security.

With that being said, the rabbi said there is regular security and then there’s the highest level.

“I was advised not to consider it a direct threat as of now,” Rabbi Zalman said. “So we’re careful and I believe all the authorities are involved.”

Zalman said he is not too concerned with what the man said to the Domain employee, but rather what the employee did afterward.

“I think the real story here is somebody heard something and kind of put two and two together instead of just going about their day.”

The unknown individual in question (Courtesy: GPD)

It’s this kind of vigilance from the general public that makes the difference in stopping bad actors, the rabbi said. The community’s dedication to safety and inclusiveness was on full display beyond the initial call to GPD. More than 30 people who aren’t even Jewish or part of the Jewish community called Rabbi Zalman to tell him about what’s happening.

“I think that’s kind of what keeps the community safe,” Rabbi Zalman said. “We can’t have a policeman in everyone’s backyard. I would want to live in that environment, so it’s important for citizens to be vigilant and that’s what happened here. I think our system is working and I hope sooner or later they are able to confirm what happened, where it happened and get more info.”

This idea of community vigilance and cooperation being the determining factor was also brought up by Khan.

“We have a very strong interfaith group that we’re a part of and everyone has reached out and been very, very gracious and generous with their support,” Khan said. “To me, it underscores the need for more conversation and more dialogue and having more tolerance.”

Both men said all they want is to ensure the safety of their communities. Rabbi Zalman said while he doesn’t see this individual as a direct, or the highest level threat, he still wants police to find him.

The unknown individual in question (Courtesy: GPD)

“I will feel safer knowing that that person is not just roaming around us,” Rabbi Zalman said.

If you have any information about this individual please contact the following:

  • Granville Police Department – 304-598-0035
  • MECCA 911’s non-emergency number – 304-599-6382
  • Morgantown Police Department 304-284-7522 (extension 0)

“We take the safety of our citizens and our visitors very seriously,” GPD Chief Corkrean said. “We’re not stepping up patrols because our patrol is consistent and we’re always vigilant for these types of threats. We take any day as serious as any other day.”

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