CRIME
03/15/2018 07:31 pm ET Updated Mar 16, 2018

2 Women Who Took Children To Vandalize An Arizona Mosque Are Arrested

The Tempe arrest came after the women posted video on Facebook.

Two Arizona women, Tahnee Gonzales and Elizabeth Dauenhauer, were arrested on suspicion of felony third-degree burglary after an investigation into theft and vandalism at a Tempe mosque revealed that the two women, along with three unidentified children, trespassed on the property of the Islamic Community Center earlier this month, an act that they recorded on Facebook live. 

The two women were booked into the Tempe City Jail on Thursday afternoon, Det. Liliana Duran told HuffPost. Based on details of the incident shown in the videos, an enhanced charge involving hate crime may be considered for sentencing, Duran said.

In the series of videos posted to Facebook, the women are seen gathered in a car with Gonzales in the passenger seat narrating the group’s plans to “expose the mosque” with Dauenhauer driving and three children listening closely in the backseat. Upon arrival, the women began ripping flyers from a bulletin board and stealing other materials from the outdoor hallway. The women then praise their children for the burglary.

The children are then seen climbing upon the mosque’s funeral van while one of the women warns a boys about the “dead Muslims” and “sex goats” that she says were once stored in the truck. 

Throughout the videos, the women are heard encouraging the children using racist and Islamophobic language.

“Be careful, because Muslims are waiting to rape you,” the young girl is heard telling one of the boys at one point in the video.

One of videos posted by Gonzales has since been taken down but was reposted on a number of other accounts, including a Facebook page under the name Naui Ocelot that has accumulated over 10,000 views. The other two videos are still on Gonzales’ personal Facebook page. HuffPost has also obtained copies of the videos. Dauenhauer has since removed her Facebook account.

The videos shocked the Muslim community in Tempe when the community members reviewed the brazen footage. Civil rights organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) condemned the incident. The ADL called it “extremely disturbing and ugly on so many levels” in a statement to HuffPost.

“We’re pleased with the decision to arrest these two individuals,” Imraan Siddiqi, the executive director of the Arizona chapter of CAIR, told HuffPost. “As we saw on the video, the actions that they took and the hateful epithets that they were spewing were egregious and harmful not only to Muslims but to any house of worship. These types of things have to be taken seriously by law enforcement, so we do thank the Tempe Police Department as well the Islamic Community Center of Tempe for taking swift and quick actions against this and not taking this light and really prosecuting it quickly.”

CAIR added that HuffPost’s report Wednesday “helped propelled this to a higher priority case.” 

After the Facebook videos were posted on March 4, the Islamic Community Center delivered evidence to the Tempe Police Department two days later. It wasn’t until a week later, and less than 24 hours after HuffPost’s initial report, that police made the arrest. 

Ahmad Al-Akoum, the operations director and acting imam of the Tempe center, told HuffPost the video’s scenes of children being led to hate were the most disturbing to him.

“What really affected me the most is seeing those young children getting real-life lessons in hate, that was the thing that made me really, really upset with those people,” Al-Akoum said. “Those innocent 5-, 6-year-old children are now really learning hate from their parents. It’s really disheartening.” 

This article has been updated with a response from the Council on American-Islamic Relations chapter in Arizona.

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