NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police Monday night were searching for a sniper who has taken aim at a local mosque – and struck a congregant in the foot – and left congregants in fear.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, Masjid Ebun Abass has been a peaceful place of worship for a decade, but now it has become the target of gunfire.
Police Monday were still searching for the shooter and trying to figure out if the shooting was motivated by hate.
Police stood guard outside the mosque as the Muslim faithful gathered for evening prayer Monday night. Musa Bokuma is hoping the night will end peacefully.
“They shoot like two times here,” Bokuma said.
Last Thursday, Angelo Jordan Mustafy said he was with a group outside the storefront mosque on Alexander Avenue and East 141st Street when someone opened fire with what may have been a pellet gun – shooting in sniper-like fashion.
Police believe the gunman may have been firing from the Mott Haven Houses development across the street.
One projectile left a hole in the mosque’s gift shop window.
“I was out here setting up the rugs to get ready to pray. All of a sudden, I heard popping sounds,” Mustafy said. “I see them come out and they were like pointing that direction. I told all the kids to get down here and go inside.”
Police said the mosque was targeted at least twice last week as members commemorate Ramadan. On Friday night, someone shot at the front window as people prayed inside. No one was hurt.
But one Muslim man, who asked not to be identified, said someone also shot his foot with a pellet gun as he walked home from prayer later that night.
When asked what he was thinking when it happened, he said, “Maybe because I’m Muslim?”
“Because I don’t do nothing to nobody. I don’t talk to nobody,” he continued. “I’m walking my way and a bullet come and hit my feet.”
So far, police have not called the incidents a hate crime.
Habibedu Trawally helps run the mosque and gift shop and is disheartened that his place of worship may have been targeted because of religion.
“It’s possible, but we don’t know that, because we been here 10 years,” Trawally said. “We never have problems with nobody.”
“I think it’s just for fun,” another member said. “It’s probably young children; young teenagers.”
Police said back in May, a man standing in front of the mosque was shot with a pellet. Fortunately, he was not seriously hurt.
But until the shooter is caught, people who worship and live in the area are worried the next possible victim might not be so lucky.