COACHELLA, Calif. - A Southern California mosque was damaged in a fire that authorities said was intentionally set Friday afternoon, and a 23-year-old man was arrested late that day.
Carl James Dial Jr., of Palm Desert, faces charges of committing arson, a hate crime, and burglary, Riverside County Sheriff's Capt. Andrew Shouse said Saturday in a statement.
Flames were reported just after noon Friday at the Islamic Center of Palm Springs. The fire was contained to the small building's front lobby, and no one was injured.
People at the mosque described hearing a "loud boom" and seeing flames, said Reymundo Nour, the mosque's acting imam, who was not on the site at the time. He said the mosque had been "firebombed."
State fire investigators, the FBI, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the investigation.
The mosque is about 75 miles from San Bernardino, where a couple who federal officials say were inspired by Islamist extremists killed 14 people on Dec. 2. Some Muslims in Southern California and beyond have worried about the potential for reprisals, while leaders of various faiths have called for tolerance.
U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, whose district includes the area in which the mosque is located, called on authorities to investigate the blaze as a possible hate crime. "Our faith in humanity will not be intimidated," he said. "And we stand together against any form [of] violence towards the innocent."
County and city officials also condemned the attack.
In Texas, meanwhile, about 20 people, half of them armed with rifles, rallied Saturday outside a suburban Dallas mosque against Islamist violence and Syrian refugee resettlement.
The demonstration, organized by the Bureau of American-Islamic Relations, drew a counterdemonstration by about 50 people. An Associated Press photographer reported that while there were frequent discussions between both sides, they were peaceful and intervention by the dozen police officers wasn't needed.