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Fire at Muslim family's apartment in Windsor Mill investigated as bias crime

A fire at a Muslim family's apartment in Windsor Mill is being investigated as a possible bias-related crime, Baltimore County police say.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations on Friday said the incident was one in a series targeting the family, and called for a thorough investigation.

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Family members are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, said Zainab Chaudry, Maryland outreach manager for CAIR.

"We just want authorities to do their due diligence," she said.

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Cpl. John Wachter, a spokesman for county police, said someone entered the apartment in the unit block of Fallridge Court on Sept. 6 and set fire to something on the stove.

Wachter said "offensive writing on the wall" led police to classify the incident as a possible bias crime. He declined to elaborate, saying an investigation by the police department's arson unit is still open.

Chaudry said the graffiti had been scrawled before the fire was set, during a series of break-ins that began Aug. 20. The graffiti included references to ISIS, she said.

A Muslim woman, who is widowed, and her two children, ages 9 and 12, lived in the apartment, Chaudry said. They have since moved in with family in Bel Air because the woman was too afraid to stay at the apartment in Windsor Mill.

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"She's been pretty traumatized by this whole incident," Chaudry said, adding that the family believes the perpetrator is someone with access to the apartment because there was no forced entry.

Wachter said police also were called to the apartment Aug. 20 and Aug. 31. In the first case, someone sprayed furniture polish on items in the home. In the second, someone had put black shoe polish on items, he said.

Wachter would not confirm whether there were signs of forced entry, citing the open arson investigation.

Chaudry said police encouraged the woman to install a security system, but told her there was "basically nothing they could do."

However, Chaudry said she was pleased the county department has classified the arson as a possible bias-related crime.

"It sends a strong message, especially to the Muslim community, that these kinds of incidents are not being downplayed," she said.

She said CAIR has "been getting reports of multiple incidents happening, not only in Maryland but across the country," Chaudry said.

"It's become normalized and accepted to vilify Muslims," she said.

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