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Fort Pierce mosque attack: Evidence backs stiffer charge, sheriff says

By Tom Elia, For Palm Beach Post, On 31 July 2016, Read Original
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The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office says it has enough evidence to raise the charges a Port St. Lucie man faces following a July 2 beating outside a Fort Pierce mosque.

TAYLOR MAZZANTI 1

State law allows prosecutors to reclassify charges if the act shows prejudice toward a religious group and is committed on the grounds of a religious institution. The sheriff’s office said in a report made public Tuesday its investigation meets those standards. The State Attorney’s Office has scheduled a hearing on the case for Friday afternoon.

The mosque had become a center of attention in the weeks before the attack because Omar Mateen worshipped there days before his June 12 attack in Orlando, killing 49 people at a gay nightclub south of downtown.

Worshippers had gathered there on the night of July 1 a special evening of all-night prayer during the holy month of Ramadan. The victim had locked his keys in his car and shortly after 4 a.m. was approached by Mazzanti in the mosque’s front parking lot, on Midway Road east of U.S. 1.

 

Police concluded that Mazzanti approached the victim, dressed in his white galabyyia, and started to argue with him, telling him to return to his native country to pray. Surveillance video from the mosque shows Mazzanti struck the victim “several times in the front and back of the head,” the report said.

The report also notes that Mazzanti said he thought the victim was breaking into vehicles, but he did not call police to investigate the incident. Instead, he stopped and confronted the victim, leading to the altercation. The victim was taken to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center for treatment of his injuries.

Mazzanti fled the scene after the altercation and was found an hour later in Port St. Lucie, about five miles south of the mosque. Police found blood on one of Mazzanti’s hands and that he told them he had gotten into an altercation with a “guy at the church,” the report said.

 

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