Motive behind alleged arson at Houston Islamic center remains unclear

Houston fire officials won't comment on motive behind alleged arson at Islamic center

While a homeless man has been arrested and charged in connection with a fire that destroyed a building at an Islamic center in Houston, investigators aren't commenting on a possible motive, including whether it may have been a hate crime.  

Darryl Ferguson, 55, was arrested and charged with first-degree felony arson in connection with the blaze, set near a storage area of the Quba Islamic Institute mosque and school in southeast Houston on Friday. Although there were fears that the fire was set intentionally as a hate crime, Ferguson told reporters Monday night, as officers led him away, that the fire was accidental and he was trying to keep warm, according to the Associated Press. 

Ferguson has been arrested multiple times in the last 20 years and charged with drug possession, burglary, theft, harassment and criminal trespassing in Harris and Galveston counties, according to court records. He has no previous record of arson, a city fire department spokesman said at a Monday news conference.

Fire officials declined to comment on the motive or whether they believed they are investigating a hate crime.

"The motive is going to be more determined through the court system," Houston Fire Department spokesman Ruy Lozano said Tuesday. "Whether it’s determined as a hate crime is up to the courts."

At the Monday news conference, a spokesman said investigators were out searching for Ferguson on Monday when he rolled up on his bicycle.

"He is very cordial, he voluntarily wanted to speak to us," the spokesman said. 

Jail records show Ferguson is being held without bond, according to the Associated Press.

Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report. 

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