Ore. police search house near Islamic center that suffered fire, take samples

Sunday, December 5, 2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Police investigating an arson fire at the Islamic center where the Somali-born suspect in a Portland mass killing plot sometimes worshipped have searched a neighboring home and taken body cell samples from the man who lives there, court records show.

Authorities have been looking into whether the blaze at Corvallis' Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center was in retaliation for the alleged plot at Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square.

The man was identified in court documents as Cody Crawford, 24. No one has yet been arrested, the FBI said Friday.

An affidavit said the house was searched Monday, a day after someone tried to burn the center. The document said Crawford and his mother live 200 feet from it. No one came to the door Friday night when an Associated Press reporter knocked.

In the bomb plot, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, has pleaded not guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction during the annual lighting of the Portland's Christmas tree a week ago.

The FBI said it arrested Mohamud after a sting operation that featured six 55-gallon drums rigged to look like a bomb and placed in a van across the street from the square.

The affidavit says police at the house Monday took computer and photo gear, propane bottles and a propane burner tip, a cigarette lighter, two plastic bottles, a gasoline can, a small wire with a burned fiber and a white powdery substance.

Police also took swabs from Crawford's hands Monday and his mouth Tuesday, but it wasn't clear why.

The affidavit said an officer asked Crawford why someone might burn the mosque. "Because they don't like Muslims," he was quoted as saying.

Court documents show Crawford's arrest record includes accusations of criminal mischief, assault and spitting food and throwing urine at deputies while in jail.

The court affidavit said police found a flashlight at the fire early Sunday at the Islamic center, and when they canvassed the neighborhood that afternoon, Crawford told them his flashlight had been stolen from the front porch the night before.

When police followed up a few hours later, they reported that Crawford smelled of alcohol, denied he'd been drinking but later admitted to having a beer that evening.

A neighbor of Crawford, Muhammad Alferhan, said Cody knew he was Muslim but never made any derogatory remarks about Alferhan's faith.

"We're still going to give him respect because he's still in the neighborhood, still in his house," Alferhan, who worships at the mosque that was firebombed, told the AP.

According to the affidavit, Crawford sometimes mowed Alferhan's lawn.

Crawford also mowed the lawn of another neighbor, Darla Saling.

"He just doesn't seem like the type" to burn a mosque, she said. "He doesn't seem angry about anything or have an ax to grind."

She said Crawford has a preschool-age son she would see playing in the yard.

Crawford was jailed in 2009, records from Washington County show, on a disorderly conduct charge after officers saw him wander into traffic.

While he was in jail, his sister told officers that she was taking care of Crawford's child and feared her brother was having mental health issues.

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