Police have located a person of interest in the Nov. 28 arson attack on an Islamic center and mosque
in Corvallis, Ore. The firebombing came two days after federal agents arrested Mohamed Osman Mohamud
on allegations of attempting to blow up thousands of people in a holiday tree-lighting ceremony in Portland.
Corvallis police on Nov. 30 searched the home 24-year-old Cody S. Crawford shares with his mother on Northwest Polk Avenue. The house sits about 200 feet from the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center
, which law-enforcement officials believe was hit by a firebomb in retaliation for the alleged bombing attempt in Portland.
According to a returned search warrant affidavit
(PDF) in Benton County Circuit Court, Corvallis Police Detective James Poole seized computers, cameras, a Bic lighter, empty propane bottles and other items from the house as well as DNA swabs from Crawford.
The investigation began in the early morning hours of Nov. 28, when a Corvallis cop observed smoke belching from the Islamic center where Mohamud, an Oregon State University freshman, occasionally attended services. The fire—believed caused by a bottle filled with fuel and tossed through a window—caused no injuries but charred black the walls of the Islamic center's office.
Police found an empty two-liter Fanta bottle at the scene containing a fluid that smelled like gasoline. But according to the affidavit, it was a blue Maglite pen light found on the walkway in front of the Islamic center that led law enforcement to focus on Crawford.
Below is the account of the investigation as laid out in the affidavit.
At about 1:45 pm the day of the fire, FBI Special Agent Melanie Wissel and a police detective stopped by Crawford's home as they were canvassing the neighborhood around the mosque. After denying he knew anything about the fire, Crawford volunteered that his flashlight had been stolen from his porch the night before, the affidavit says.
The description Crawford gave of his flashlight matched the one found at the scene of the fire, according to the affidavit.
At around 5:15 pm the same day, Wissel returned with Poole, the Corvallis Police detective. Crawford told them he had been studying Spanish and smoking on the front porch the night before and had used the Maglite to read, the affidavit says. According to the affidavit, Crawford said he had thought about calling police when he found it missing the next day, but his mother had discouraged him.
Poole asked Crawford why he believed someone would attack the mosque, the affidavit says. "Because they don't like Muslims," Crawford responded, according to the affidavit. Crawford also mentioned the bombing may have been retaliation for the attempted bombing in Portland, the affidavit says.
Asked what should happen to the person who attempted the Portland bombing, Crawford said they should go to prison or be sent back to their country of origin, the affidavit says. Crawford also mentioned he'd found a blog that said the Islamic center was bombed on purpose by worshipers at the mosque to cover up evidence they were behind the Portland bomb plot, the affidavit says.
Crawford's house was made of red bricks identical to a brick found amidst the broken glass at the mosque, the affidavit says. Crawford refused to take a polygraph test or to allow the detectives to search his home, according to the affidavit. However, he assured the investigators there was no evidence in the house related to the fire and offered his hand to shake on it, the affidavit says.
Poole asked Crawford if he was on probation, and Crawford said he was not, according to the affidavit. However, the affidavit notes that Crawford is on probation for a third-degree assault conviction in Washington County last year.
According to police reports attached to the affidavit, Crawford was arrested in Sherwood, Ore., on the afternoon of June 27, 2009. Washington County Sheriff's Deputy Lucas Franks saw Crawford walking on a white line separating a road from a bike lane and warned Crawford to stay on the sidewalk, the police report says.
Crawford had been drinking, according to the police report, and after walking 20 yards down the sidewalk he stepped into traffic without looking. Crawford walked about 50 yards down the middle of the lane, according to the police report. Franks contacted Crawford again. "Well just arrest me then," Crawford said, according to the police report. Franks did so.
The next day, on June 28, a Washington County sheriff's deputy received a report that Crawford made a phone call from jail to his sister. According to the police report, Crawford told his sister Crawford's son would die if Crawford wasn't released from jail.
When a deputy checked on the child, the sister said Crawford had become so delusional and paranoid that she doubted he could care for his son, according to a police report. She told the deputy Crawford believed he was the only person who could protect his son from the CIA and the military, the police report says.
The following day, June 29, Crawford admitted to throwing a cup full of urine and spit at one of the jail guards, according to another police report. Crawford told a deputy he threw the cup because the jail guard was "evil"and "he won't release me and he won't call anybody," the police report says. Crawford was arrested for assault and harassment.
Two days later, on July 1, Crawford was arrested again in jail, this time for assault and criminal mischief. According to yet another police report, Crawford spit chewed-up food at a guard then attacked a window with a curtain weighted with magnets, causing damage to the glass.
Court records show Crawford pleaded no contest Nov. 13, 2009, to a single count of third-degree assault. He was sentenced to 40 hours of community service and one year of probation. It's unclear from court records why Crawford was still on probation when he was confronted after the arson attack.
U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton tells WW
no arrests have been made. Holton declined to say why.
(Photo: Crawford's mugshot from June 27, 2009, courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff's Office)