Toronto police arrest man in ‘ghastly pattern’ of hate crimes

(CNN) — A “ghastly pattern” of hate-motivated mischief incidents has emerged in downtown Toronto over the past few weeks, with damage totalling more than $140,000, police said.

The suspect, a 28-year-old man identified as Raqib Bhambhani, was arrested by Toronto police Friday evening and is facing a dozen charges, including hate crimes and mischief over $5,000.

The incidents took place in eight locations between May 21 and June 14 and involved damage to anti-Islam bumper stickers and a billboard, Toronto police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said in a statement.

CNN was not immediately able to reach Bhambhani, who is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.

He is accused of ramming a parked vehicle and punching a driver’s side window near Yonge and Dundas streets on June 14, breaking the window and damaging the glass, according to Toronto police.

Shortly after, on June 15, Bhambhani allegedly attacked and scratched a residential window on Yonge Street, shattering it, with a staff pass key after the window was broken, police said.

Bhambhani is also accused of taking items from parked vehicles in Yonge Street, Wilson Avenue and the subway station beneath University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus and then driving the items to Dundas Street and using the same key to smash a parked vehicle’s window, police said.

On June 17, Bhambhani allegedly damaged a billboard near Yonge and Front streets using a staff pass key that broke the window.

Police say Bhambhani also used the staff pass key to cut through the car canopy and damage a vehicle to the extent that the vehicle was unusable.

It is not clear when police first learned of the incidents or what motivates them.

“Not all victims are Muslim; and not all hate crimes are motivated by religion. Although he targeted some individuals, he is also a suspect in malicious and damaging acts that occurred near all the windows broken on all the eight cars,” Gray said.

The Canadian Muslim Advocacy said that if he was the culprit, Bhambhani was a “coward.”

“The public needs to be alerted of this threat to our community in Toronto,” Shabna Ullah said in a statement. “Using the keys to break windows in cars is a cowardly act that makes an individual look very unappealing. Whether one is Muslim or not, being looked upon with suspicion is never something we want to experience.”

CNN affiliate CBC reported that several organizations have already expressed support for the victims of the vandalism, and that some university students are involved in an effort to raise $5,000 for repairs.

Similar incidents have taken place in Canada in recent months.

Last month, two men were charged in two incidents within two days in Toronto, after they reportedly vandalized a mosque and a Muslim community center.

In February, a 24-year-old man was charged with hate crimes after he allegedly stabbed a man outside a mosque in Quebec, said Gilles Faure, Canada’s assistant commissioner of the anti-terrorism unit.

During a national day of prayer in March, two men were charged with setting the local airport ablaze, breaking windows and damaging tires after they exchanged slurs with Canadian Muslim passengers, said Montreal police.

In February, an 8-year-old boy was left injured after a pellet gun was fired at him in his own driveway.

CNN iReporter James Prater, of the town of Carstairs, Alberta, where many Muslims live, said he lost $250 in damage to his mailbox when someone shot a pellet at the vehicle.

Prater’s father was driving the car around the neighborhood when he heard a noise like a gunshot. Then came the sound of tires squealing, he said.

When his father saw what had happened, he ran outside to find a young man shooting at him.

“It’s not known if the individual was a Muslim, or if it was just a random act of violence,” said Officer Dave Morgan, who is based in the district that covers the shooting, said in a March 31 news release.

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