Man accused of threatening Phoenix mosque 1 day after New Zealand attack
A man in Phoenix has been arrested after police said he visited a mosque, wandered into rooms without permission and, when questioned by a mosque leader, made a slashing motion across his throat.
The episode occurred Saturday, one day after a gunman opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing at least 50 people.
Noel Thomas Becht, 40, is being held on charges of threatening and intimidating, disorderly conduct and trespassing.
Phoenix police said Becht showed up Saturday evening at the United Islamic Center of Arizona and said he was curious about Islam. He was encouraged to sit in on a prayer service.
Becht sat for a while but then began wandering around the building, going into rooms where he wasn’t allowed, police said. He asked questions about the service times at the Phoenix mosque as well as another mosque in Tempe, about half an hour away by car.
A mosque leader questioned Becht, who then held his finger to his throat and made a sawing motion, according to a police report.
The leader later told police he felt as though Becht was signaling he “wanted to behead him.”
Police responded at 7:25 p.m. and took Becht into custody.
He was booked into the Maricopa County Jail, where he was still being held Tuesday morning.
CNN has attempted to reach out to Becht but has not been able to determine if he has an attorney.
Becht is scheduled to appear in court next Monday.
Mosques are taking extra precautions
The attacks in Christchurch have mosques around the world taking extra security measures.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is sending out a 16-page safety guide to mosques with instructions on how to install cameras as well as how to deal with active shooters, bomb threats and suspicious packages.
Araceli Villanueva, an official with CAIR-Arizona, told CNN affiliate KTVK, “We need to make sure that we have security at all times, especially right now.”
New York officials are beefing up security at mosques in New York City and throughout the state. Officials in the Dutch city of Rotterdam are ramping up security at mosques after a shooting on a tram over the weekend killed three people.
In a Facebook message Monday, the United Islamic Center of Arizona thanked the community for its support.
“After the recent incident that occurred on Saturday night at UICA, we have seen the true strength and the unity that are present within our community and elsewhere,” the message said. “Muslims and non-Muslims alike came to show us their support and to work hand-in-hand with us to unroot hate, radicalism and supremacy of all forms.”