Man wanted in connection to death at Central Florida mosque identified

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. — Deputies in South Florida on Thursday shot a man whom authorities were seeking in connection to a fatal beating at a mosque more than 100 miles to the north earlier in the day, authorities said.

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Update 9:50 a.m. EDT March 25: Detectives identified the suspected assailant as Ahmed Raslan, 38, according to WFTV and The Associated Press. According to the AP, investigators said Raslan had been making irrational statements online and apparently believed the mosque was his home.

Raslan scaled a barbed-wire fence, broke a window and killed the victim, WFTV reported.

Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said that Raslan was born in Egypt but has spent most of his life in the U.S., according to Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Original report: During a news conference, Indian River County Sheriff Eric Flowers said that a Chrysler Town & Country minivan was spotted near Vero Beach that was tied to the crime in Seminole County, WPTV reported.

Deputies responded to a Sam’s Club parking lot and conducted a traffic stop, the television station reported. Flowers said the man exited the vehicle and was reaching into his pocket “as if he had a gun,” Treasure Coast Newspapers reported. Deputies shot the man three times, the newspaper reported.

“The way that this guy is acting, he wanted to be shot. The way he pulls his fingers out, points them at the deputies,” Flowers told reporters. “When he dove back into the vehicle, they had no choice. He’s just acting crazy out here. And I understand exactly why they did it.

“He will need surgery. I’m not sure if he will make it or not.”

None of the Indian River County deputies were injured, Flowers said. The man was taken to an area hospital and was undergoing surgery.

The identities of the victim and his assailant have not been revealed.

During a Thursday afternoon news conference, Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said the 59-year-old victim was found at the Husseini Islamic Center, the television station reported.

Lemma initially told reporters that the suspect was being trained to replace the victim and that there had recently been some conflict between the pair, WFTV reported. However, the sheriff held a second news conference about 90 minutes later, stating that detectives now believe the attack was random. Lemma added that the suspect had no connection to the mosque, the television station reported.

Investigators said they discovered a pair of pants at the front door of the school and noticed that tables had been moved about and that foldable chairs were “all over the place,” WFTV reported.

Investigators said the suspect had pulled the victim’s body to a back patio and hosed down the victim and patio, according to the television station. Investigators added that they discovered the victim’s wet shirt lying next to him.

“The victim and the suspect were known to one another. This is not a situation of a random act that somebody wanted to target a mosque and go on there. This was clearly a transition relationship that had some friction in the past,” Lemma told reporters. “A physical altercation that ended up being a homicide investigation. It looks like the weapon of choice to commit the murder, not 100% on this, it looks like the shovel and there was no other threats in this particular area. We will continue to work with the FBI and other partners to answer some of the other questions about their background.”

It was unclear why the man was traveling toward South Florida. Vero Beach is approximately 112 miles south of Sanford.