JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - One day after authorities announced the arrest of a man accused of plotting a mass shooting at a local Islamic center, officials at the facility tell First Coast News the site of the planned attack was secured long before the incident.
Bernandino Bolatete, 69, planned to climb the minaret, or tower, at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida and start shooting, according to court documents.
“I hope and pray to God nobody tries to attempt anything like that, but it’s very well secured,” Ashraf Shaikh, chairman of the board of trustees for the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida, said of the minaret.
Minarets were traditionally used to call worshippers to prayer, Shaikh said. In present times, they’re mostly symbolic.
While Shaikh couldn’t give specifics about security protocol, he said access to the minaret was already restricted long before Bolatete’s arrest.
“You use common sense and say ‘God forbid if somebody wants to do some harm, what is the most vulnerable place that he or she may want to go?’” he said.
Meanwhile, Bolatete’s family went to the Federal Courthouse Tuesday afternoon to show their support. His brother, Pedro, described Bernandino as a loving, family man with four children in the Philippines.
“There’s an ongoing war in the Philippines down south with Muslim extremists,” Pedro Bolatete said. “If he did mention about Muslims he thought it was probably in the Philippines still, thinking about those Muslim extremists down south.”
A judge Tuesday said Bolatete was a danger to the community and a flight risk and must remain in custody. His next court appearance is December 12.