SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – Police in a Southern California suburb are still seeking a man suspected of a hate crime for stabbing a worshipper near a mosque, authorities said.
A man previously arrested, John Matteson, 29, was involved in the crime, but he was not the one who wielded the knife and stabbed a worshipper from the Islamic Center of Simi Valley, police said Monday.
The two men approached a group of people who had just left the Islamic Center of Simi Valley late Saturday night and yelled slurs at them, police spokesman Sgt. Travis Coffey said.
That escalated to a physical fight when the suspect stabbed the man, whose injuries were not life-threatening, Coffey said.
It does not appear that the men had planned the attack but had merely run across the group of Muslims.
"Our belief is they hadn't staked out the mosque at this point," Coffey told the Los Angeles Times. "It appears to be an opportunity crime."
The crime and the word that the stabber remains free caused concern in the area's Muslim community.
"We need more patrol and more protection," said Omar Jubran, an imam at another mosque, the Islamic Society of Simi Valley, told the Ventura County Star. "I've been in Simi Valley for 30 years, and I've never seen this."
Matteson is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday. He was booked on suspicion of making criminal threats, violating civil rights and disturbing the peace by fighting, Ventura County jail records show.
It's not clear whether he has an attorney. Police said he also was injured in the fight, but didn't give details.