PROVIDENCE — A man selling Islamic clothing was shot and wounded outside the Islamic Center of Rhode Island late Friday morning.
Providence police Major David Lapatin said Dean Scott Ramos, 62, who is affiliated with the mosque, was setting up his table to sell clothing outside the mosque at 39 Haskins St. Around 11:30 a.m., as Ramos bent down next to his table, a man opened fire on him and sped off in a vehicle, Lapatin said.
Ramos was rushed to Rhode Island Hospital with injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening, according to police. People were inside the mosque at the time and rushed out.
Lapatin and police Chief Oscar Perez said there had been no threats to the mosque recently. “We have a great relationship with them,” said Perez.
Perez and Imam Abdul-Latif Sackor had gone to school together and boxed in the same gyms as children. On Friday, Perez was at the Islamic center to reassure Sackor and some of the 400 or so members that the police were increasing security at the mosque and all others in the city.
Sackor also said the Islamic center, which has been located at this brick mosque for nearly 20 years, hadn’t received any threats recently, not since a rash of threatening notes were reported at mosques nationwide years ago.
“We are Muslims here trying to live our lives. We are part of the community in America, all trying to live our lives,” Sackor said.
Sackor said that the gunman had been sitting in a sedan with Massachusetts license plates in the parking lot across the narrow street from the mosque for about a half hour. Sackor said he and others at the mosque weren’t suspicious -- they had assumed the person was early for the 1 p.m. prayer services.
Ramos arrived and set up his clothing table, as he frequently does every week. And that’s when the driver emerged with a gun, Sackor said.
Lapatin said detectives are investigating the shooting, but said the motive was not yet known on Friday. Police did not release a description of the shooter. Sackor said the man appeared to be wearing glasses and a mask.
As a police officer sat in a marked cruiser outside the mosque, dozens of people arrived for the midday prayers. Sackor said afterward he was reserving what to say to the members of the mosque until there was more information from the police.
He said the shooting will make them more vigilant. Even so, “our door is open for everyone,” Sackor said. “Islam is for all people.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, called on law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive in the shooting.
“Because we have witnessed an unprecedented spike in anti-Muslim incidents nationwide in recent weeks, we urge local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for this attack,” council national communications director Ibrahim Hooper said in a statement Friday afternoon.
The council is also urging religious institutions nationwide to take extra security precautions by using advice offered in the council’s booklet, “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety.”
Last week, the council released new data indicating a 216 percent surge in complaints, including reported incidents of bias, reported to its offices since Oct. 7. The Washington, D.C.-based group said it encourages those experiencing similar acts of aggression, racism, and Islamophobia to call their local offices and report these incidents immediately.
This story has been updated with comments from Imam Abdul-Latif Sackor and The Council on American-Islamic Relations.