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Jackie Little, suspected in mosque fires, vandalizing Rep. Ilhan Omar's office, arrested and facing federal charge

Jackie Little, Minneapolis mosque fire suspect, in custody
Jackie Little, Minneapolis mosque fire suspect, in custody 01:55

MINNEAPOLIS -- The suspect who allegedly set two fires at mosques in south Minneapolis last week has been arrested and now faces a federal arson charge, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota.

Jackie Little, 36, was charged by warrant earlier this week in Hennepin County in connection with a fire at Masjid Al Rahma Islamic Center.

READ MORE: Charges: Jackie Rahm Little set fire inside Minneapolis' Masjid Al Rahma mosque

A federal complaint accuses Little of starting a fire in the bathroom at the Masjid Omar Islamic Center April 23, as well as in a hallway at Masjid Al Rahma a day later. A representative of Masjid Al Rahma told investigators the fire caused "tens of thousands of dollars" in damages, the complaint states.

Fire damage at the Masjid Al Rahma mosque U.S. Department of Justice

Per the complaint, Little's mother told investigators he "extensively harassed a Muslim female" in the past and "has had a fascination with fire from a young age." She said she suspected him in "several unreported arson events."

Little's mother identified him in surveillance footage of the arsons. Plymouth police also recognized Little from a previous arson investigation.

Despite the motive still being under investigation by the FBI, Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O'Hara confidently called the two fires "hate crimes." He said they were an attempt "to inflict terror onto the Muslim community." 

"As far as I'm concerned, you know, we're going to assume that this was motivated by hate, this was motivated by bias," O'Hara said.

O'Hara says Little was heading to a mental health facility at the time of his arrest. That transport was overseen by the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office, who helped connect the dots. 

"The attentiveness of a dispatcher realized that this was the person that we were interested in making an arrest," O'Hara said.

Jackie Little, mosque arson suspect, in surveillance footage U.S. Department of Justice

He says MPD is committed "to protecting the Constitutional right of Freedom of Religion for every resident and visitor in our city."

Jaylani Hussein is the executive director of the Minnesota Council on American-Islamic Relations, better known as CAIR.

"It has been a huge relief to learn that this person has been apprehended," Hussein said.

Hussein says the back-to-back fires spread a sense of fear.

"Yes, there was an attack on a mosque, but it really was an attack on the entire community. People felt unease," he said.

Hussein says he's thankful so many law enforcement agencies came together to put an end to those fears.

"The chief's words and actions have been remarkable," he said. 

O'Hara says their work to keep this community safe isn't over.  

Fire damage inside the Masjid Omar Islamic Center  CBS

"Even though we have this person into custody, we will ensure that we do continue to have enhanced patrols around all houses of worship," O'Hara said.

CAIR-Minnesota tells WCCO News that thanks to donations, they're now able to hire a full-time safety professional who will work with the 92 mosques in the state to apply for grants to increase safety measures.

The federal complaint also states Little harassed a U.S. representative from Minnesota via email, and vandalized the representative's district office earlier this year. Rep. Ilhan Omar confirmed she was the targeted representative.

"I want to thank the Department of Justice, the FBI, local law enforcement, and all the agencies who helped bring this suspect to justice," Rep. Omar said. "We are witnessing an epidemic of hate against the Muslim community and other religious minorities in Minnesota and globally right now. This campaign of terror is designed to keep us fearful and divided. As Muslim-Americans and as Minnesotans, we will not be terrorized. We will continue to stand united against bigotry because love is stronger than hate."

Little is scheduled to make his first court appearance Monday.

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