Cape Girardeau man charged with hate crime in Islamic Center incident

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Cape Girardeau man faces hate crime charges for allegedly vandalizing the Islamic Center and a car parked near it late Sunday night.

Nicholas T. Proffit, 31, was charged Monday morning with two counts of felony property damage under Missouri's hate crime law, along with misdemeanor offenses for driving while intoxicated, speeding and no seat belt.

Cape Girardeau police responded to the Islamic Center, 298 N. West End Blvd., at 11:52 p.m. Sunday on a report of property damage, according to a probable-cause statement by patrol officer Bryan A. Blanner.

Police arrived to find a large glass window on the south side of the building had been broken out, along with the smaller windows on the double doors. Several rocks lay on the floor inside the building, and a yellow Dollar General shopping bag containing a rock was found on the front steps.

The windshield of a white Mercedes-Benz parked at the southwest part of the lot was also cracked as though something had been thrown at it.

Police spoke with two residents of the house across the street from the Islamic Center lot, who said they'd seen a black four-door vehicle pull up to the Islamic Center a few minutes earlier.

A man got out of the car, looking "angry and ready to fight," one of the witnesses told police. He began throwing rocks at the windows and yelling, the statement said.

Police were able to catch up with a vehicle matching the witness description at the intersection of South West End Boulevard and Merriwether Street.

As officers initiated a stop and approached the car, a man later identified at Proffit began to toss rocks at them out the driver-side window, the statement said.

He then lit a cigarette and asked the two officers if they could just allow him to drive away. They instead asked him to exit the vehicle, and, detecting a strong odor of alcohol, asked if he would perform a battery of field sobriety tests.

Proffit then stated "I'm drunk but it ain't no big deal, man," according to the statement, and agreed to perform the tests, during which he exhibited signs of impairment, the statement said.

A search of Proffit revealed nine medium size rocks in his front and back pockets, and he was arrested, the statement said.

First-degree property damage as a hate crime adds a possible three years to a prison sentence. Proffit is also charged with second-degree property damage as a hate crime, which carries a possible sentence of four years.

Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle said hate crimes are rare in Cape Girardeau, with probably less than one per year.

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

298 N. West End Blvd., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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