On Wednesday, September 19, 2012 a mosque in the Puget Sound area received a bomb threat in their email inbox. Its subject line, the e-mail sent by Josh Standlee, a 26-year old man from Mukilteo, WA, read “Peace and Love” and the email itself stated: “Kindly get the f*** out of [city name] before more bombs go off, please. Don’t make me draw a cartoon of Muhammad.”

Given the recent wave of shootings, arsons, and bombings targeting mosques around the United States, the mosque community was extremely alarmed by this threat. A mosque board member immediately called the local city police and completed an incident report form. He then forwarded the email to CAIR-WA for advice on how to proceed.

CAIR was able to identify the sender of the threat from his email message, which was sent from his personal account and signed with his actual name, Josh Standlee. Through a quick online search, we located both a MySpace page and a Facebook page, and forwarded these links, along with photos of the sender from his Facebook page, and the actual bomb threat to the Seattle FBI Field Office. We requested that the FBI investigate the threat as a possible federal hate crime, and provided contact information for both the mosque board and CAIR-WA’s Civil Rights Department.

The following week, mosque board members received a call from the FBI indicating that they had received our request for an investigation as well as a report from the local police department. The FBI indicated that an investigation was underway. However, board members reported that they felt the FBI had been dismissive and downplayed the seriousness of the threat when they told the mosque board members favorable things about the man who made the threat and his family. Further, the FBI agent had verbally discouraged the mosque from pursuing prosecution of the man who made the threat.

The impact this threat had on the mosque community was tremendous. Children no longer play outside on the mosque playground and members are terrified to enter the mosque; some families have stopped attending all together.

This fear was not alleviated when the board received yet another email from the perpetrator, this one with a subject line that said “An Apology from me, [name].” In it, Josh Standlee, the sender, said that his first email had been misinterpreted and provided a convoluted explanation of his intended meaning.

Despite this, CAIR and the board members have agreed that violent threats are very serious and law enforcement needs to treat each one just as seriously if they would had it been a Muslim sending a similar bomb threat to a church or synagogue. Unfortunately, the fact that the sender was even able to send a second email shows that law officials had not treated this case with the seriousness it deserves since he had not only not been apprehended but also clearly still had access to contact with the mosque.

On October 1, 2012, mosque board members received a phone call from an FBI agent with an update on their investigation. The agent making the call described the man who had sent the threat, then said he seems like a “good person” and “We don’t believe he is a threat to you.” When a board member asked about the man’s motive, the FBI agent stated that they did not know why he had sent the threat.

Members of the mosque felt that the FBI has downplayed the seriousness of the threat. As of this past weekend, the FBI confirmed with CAIR that they have not searched the perpetrator’s home and, to our knowledge, have not searched any of his or his family’s property or interviewed any his friends. As such, there is no knowledge as to whether the person who made the threat has access to weapons, if he has been conversing online or in person with anyone about his anger and his intentions to take any violent action.

Further, the FBI has offered to facilitate a get-to-know meeting between the mosque board members, the threat-sender, and his parents. The mosque leaders see this suggestion as highly inappropriate. Such a meeting would put mosque members within close proximity of a person who has sent a threat to possibly injure or kill the mosque’s members and neighbors. Suggesting such a meeting downplays the seriousness of the threat and the possibility of the sender acting on the threat. A meeting is far from fulfilling our expectation that a bomb threat targeting a religious community be addressed with a thorough investigation that it deserves.

To address these concerns, CAIR-WA held a press conference at our office on October 15, 2012, during which we asked that the FBI and local police conduct a thorough investigation rather than undermining the severity of a bomb threat.

Shortly after holding the press conference, CAIR-WA received a call from the police department explaining their role in the investigation, and the mosque board received a call stating that the police department had completed their investigation and would send the file to the prosecutor’s office soon. In the meantime, while CAIR-WA and the mosque board await the possibility of prosecution, the mosque board has attempted to file a protection order prohibiting the sender of the threat to come near the mosque.

WATCH TV news coverage of the story:

KIRO 7 TV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUj2bZkYLfU

KING 5 TV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZX_8Sll3c4&feature=plcp

KONG TV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXvzmAZAHJM

CAIR-WA continues to work diligently with law enforcement to ensure a comprehensive investigation is conducted and that the perpetrator receives appropriate penalties for his crime.