No hate crime charges for man who allegedly threatened people outside Denver mosque

The Downtown Denver Islamic Center off Downing Street, in Whittier, after a man arrived at the mosque with a long gun. Nov. 14, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Downtown Denver Islamic Center off Downing Street, in Whittier, after a man arrived at the mosque with a long gun. Nov. 14, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

A man police said threatened people outside of a Denver mosque with an airsoft gun is facing five felony menacing charges, but won’t face any hate crime charges, Denver’s District Attorney’s Office said on Thursday.

Benjamin Casillas-Rocha, 24, was charged Thursday with five counts of menacing after police said he threatened people outside the Downtown Denver Islamic Center on Nov. 14, after showing up believing he left it in the building.

“After a thorough investigation by the Denver Police Department’s Bias Motivated Crimes team, there is currently no evidence that either the victims or the mosque were targeted because of their faith or religious beliefs,” District Attorney Beth McCann said in a statement. “Therefore, while Mr. Casillas-Rocha is being charged with felony menacing, this matter is not being prosecuted as a hate crime.”

A Denver DA spokesperson repeated McCann’s statement nearly word for word when asked why Casillas-Rocha isn’t facing bias-motivated charges.

The incident led to increased patrols by Denver police in city mosques. The Colorado chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations had called on state and federal to file hate crime charges to be filed against Casillas-Rocha.

Casillas-Rocha is scheduled to make his next court appearance on Dec. 4.

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