Man Charged With Hate Crime After Destructive Break-In at Islamic Center

A New Jersey man was charged on Monday with a federal hate crime after a Palestinian flag was stolen and $40,000 worth of damage was done to religious artifacts at an Islamic student center at Rutgers University during the Eid-al-Fitr holiday, officials said.

The man, Jacob Beacher, is accused of breaking into the Center for Islamic Life at the main Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, N.J., this month, vandalizing Turbah prayer stones, and stealing a charity box and the flag.

The Rutgers episode and the arrest of Mr. Beacher, 24, come as tensions over the Israel-Hamas war continue to fester on university campuses across the United States, where Muslim and Jewish students alike have complained of feeling that they are under attack.

Mr. Beacher, of North Plainfield, was charged in a criminal complaint with one count of intentional or attempted obstruction of religious practice and one count of making false statements to the federal authorities. He was ordered detained after an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge André M. Espinosa of Federal District Court in Newark.

A federal public defender representing Mr. Beacher did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Rutgers spokeswoman, Megan Schumann, said in an emailed statement that the university “condemns this act of violence against the Rutgers-New Brunswick Muslim community and the desecration of a religious and community space.” She said there was no record of Mr. Beacher’s having attended the university.

“Such acts of hatred and bigotry against anyone in our community have no place at Rutgers,” Ms. Schumann added.

In a statement, Islamic center leaders expressed “a sense of relief and safety knowing that the suspect is in custody.”

“This incident did not occur in a vacuum,” the center said in its statement, adding that “this incident is representative of a bigger issue — the dehumanization of Palestinian lives and voices abroad and locally.”

According of an F.B.I. agent’s affidavit attached to the complaint, security camera footage shows Mr. Beacher approaching the center’s back door around 2:40 a.m. on April 10, the first day of Eid-al-Fitr. The holiday marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim calendar’s holiest month.

After breaking a glass pane on the door, the affidavit says, Mr. Beacher reached inside and unlatched a deadbolt lock. Once inside, he vandalized the prayer stones and other items containing holy language from the Quran, and stole the flag and the charity box.

He left the center after about 20 minutes and rode his bike to a nearby park, where the charity box was later found, the affidavit says, citing surveillance footage.

Mr. Beacher spoke with investigators voluntarily two days after the break-in and acknowledged being the person captured by security cameras near the Islamic center but denied breaking into the building, according to the affidavit.

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