The Dakota County Sheriff's Office is investigating an allegation that a recent incident at the site of a Muslim cemetery was motivated by bias.
According to the sheriff's office, the Farmington Fire Department responded to an odor of gas at a vacant building at 1120 220th St. W in Castle Rock Township at 2 a.m. Monday.
The fire department located the gas leak and shut off the gas to the building.
Later that day, the owner of the Al Maghfirah Cemetery reported damage to the building, including to the garage door, a broken window, cut gas lines and cut electrical wires, the sheriff's office said. The owner also reported tires were dumped inside the building.
It's unclear when this happened, as the owner of the property hasn't been there since Aug. 27, the sheriff's office said.
The sheriff's office is "investigating an allegation that the act was motivated by bias" and anyone who may have information on the incident is asked to call Detective Fitzgerald at 651-438-4729.
And the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minnesota (CAIR MN) is asking state and federal law enforcement to investigate the motive for the "apparent attempted arson."
“An explosion and resulting fire were thankfully averted in what appears to be the latest hate attack on the Muslim community,” CAIR MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein said in a news release Tuesday. “We call on local, state and federal law enforcement agencies – including the FBI – to investigate a possible bias motive for this failed arson attack against a Muslim institution.”
CAIR MN says more than 30 tires were "strategically placed" inside the building and a "large gas pipe" was cut inside, with the person or people responsible "possibly seeking an explosion and subsequent fire."
There has been opposition to the Al Maghfirah Cemetery Association's proposal to turn the property into a Muslim cemetery.
The association bought the former nursery in 2014 and Castle Rock Township rejected its proposal to turn it into a cemetery, citing the potential loss of a "lot of tax base," MPR News reported. The association mounted a legal battle and in 2016 a Dakota County District Judge ruled in favor of the cemetery, saying the township's decision was "arbitrary and capricious."
This week's incident is the second time the cemetery was vandalized. In 2017, the property was damaged and a message reading "Leave, you R dead" was spray-painted on a wall.
Note: Some of the details provided in this story are based on the law enforcement's latest version of events, and may be subject to change.