By Senait Gebregiorgis
SEMINOLE COUNTY, Florida (WESH) — A 59-year-old maintenance worker was brutally beaten to death by a man with a shovel at a mosque Thursday, deputies said.
Investigators in Seminole County say the suspect showed up to the Husseini Islamic Center on Hester Avenue in unincorporated Sanford in the early morning hours before sunrise.
They believe he climbed over the fence, used a propane tank to break a rear window and when he got inside, they say that’s when he was confronted by the victim.
“He felt that this was his home and the property on the inside was (Julius) Caesar’s property, and his intent was to defend that even at the cost of murder,” Sheriff Dennis Lemma said.
Lemma said Facebook posts published by the suspect hours before he was found show that he targeted an address on Hester which led to the Husseini Islamic Center.
Thirty-eight-year-old Ahmed Raslan even sent the messages to the National Guard and Seminole County Sheriff’s Office saying in part: “Immediately assist and pickup to secure the Caesar and the Caesar First Stolen property.”
“It looks like this location was picked at random or God was speaking to this person,” Leema said.
Investigators say when Raslan used a propane tank to break into the mosque, he was met by the victim inside – a maintenance worker who also provided security.
Detectives believe there was an altercation before the victim was beaten to death with a shovel.
Raslan took off in the victim’s minivan.
“We believe that he may have been deranged and believing exactly what he was doing,” Leema said.
The manhunt turned violent.
More than 100 miles away, deputies in Indian River County found Raslan in a parking lot.
They said the confrontation forced deputies to shoot.
The president of the mosque Mahmood Dhalla says the victim who has not been identified yet was a dedicated employee. He was the first person there on Thursday before children were scheduled to arrive for school.
“He always said that I’ll protect this place with my life and I think he did,” Dhalla said.
Deputies say the suspect was unarmed, but pointed his fingers in the shape of a gun at them when confronted.
That’s when they shot him three times.
He is being treated at the hospital.
As for the victim, members of the Islamic Center and the community are planning to honor him for what they call heroic actions that he took this morning.
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