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Burlington teens arrested in mosque vandalism incident

Cameron S. Cappella (left) and Derrik M. Demone, both 18-year-olds from Burlington, were charged in a vandalism incident at a local mosque.

Burlington police said Monday they had arrested a pair of local teens for allegedly using red spray paint to scrawl the letters "USA" across the exterior of a mosque in the early hours following Halloween night.

Cameron S. Cappella and Derrik M. Demone, both 18, are accused of malicious destruction of property over $250 and tagging property, according to police.

Authorities have said they discovered graffiti spray-painted on the exterior of the Islamic Center of Burlington around 1:45 a.m. Sunday. They also said officers found smashed eggs, which had apparently been thrown at the building.

"We were able to quickly close this shameful case," Burlington Police Chief Michael Kent said in a statement. "This behavior is not tolerated in town and the suspects will be held responsible for their actions."


Islamic community leaders said Monday they would urge prosecutors to pursue the charges against the men as hate crimes, which is an official designation that refers to criminal acts motivated by prejudice.

Police had said Sunday they were investigating the case as a hate crime. Neither Cappella nor Demone faced such a charge Monday afternoon.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said her office was continuing to work with Burlington police on the case. In a statement, Ryan said the charges Monday were "based on the evidence."

"Additional charges may be considered as the investigation progresses," she added.

Police said portions of the incident were caught by surveillance cameras.

The vandalism was the latest in a series of episodes to rattle the community at the mosque, which was also hit by "USA" graffiti in 2013. Nobody has been arrested in that case.

Earlier this year, a young man took off his shirt, wore it like a head scarf, and taunted people exiting the mosque, according to John Robbins, executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. That incident took place during the holy month of Ramadan, he said.


Police said they had not found anything to connect Cappella and Demone to the previous episodes.

Robbins has said he believes the graffiti reflects an offensive view that Muslims are not fully American.

Cappella and Demone were arraigned Monday in Woburn District Court, where they were released on their own recognizance, given a curfew from 12 to 6 a.m., and ordered to stay away from the mosque, any victims of the crime, and each other.

Neither suspect could be reached for comment. They are due back in court on Dec. 11.

On Monday, Munir Gandevia, president of the Islamic Center of Burlington, was surveying the damage at the mosque. He said he was not sure how much it would cost to clean up the spray paint, but that he was disappointed to have to address such an issue again.

However, he said, he had been heartened by the supportive response he had received from faith and other community groups around the region. Also, the speedy arrests made Gandevia and the Islamic Center's members feel safer.

"This time, at least, they arrested someone, so people know that when you do something like this, there will be law and order," he said.

Andy Rosen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @andyrosen.