Police: Woman arrested after threat at Kentwood Islamic center

Posted at 12:01 PM, Jan 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-02 17:16:49-05

KENTWOOD, Mich. --  Kentwood Police say a woman is in custody after allegedly threatening people leaving the At-Tawheed Islamic Center located at 3357 East Paris Ave. SE.

Dr. Ali Metwalli, the board chairman at the center, tells FOX 17 that a woman approached the mosque Monday around 8:45 a.m. when people who had been praying were leaving.  She then demanded money and threatened that if she did not get it she had a gun in her purse or would "blow something up."

Dr. Metwalli stood among neighbors Monday discussing the threats, saying this can happen anywhere.

“We don’t take it in any way, shape, or form as a threat to the Muslim community," said Dr. Metwalli.

The mosque members threatened called 911 while the woman stayed outside of the locked building. No one was hurt in the incident.

“If she came in at any time when the place is open and asked for money, if she proves that she needs it, we would have helped her, rather than come in and create the kind of a commotion at the beginning of the year," said Dr. Metwalli. "It’s unfortunate.”

The Michigan State Police bomb squad was also called to scene.  They were inspecting the suspect's large purse and coat near the center's entrance and her car parked in the adjacent strip mall. Between robots and a K-9, Captain Richard Roberts with the Kentwood Police Department said investigators found nothing suspicious, or any evidence that this woman was armed.

“She’s an American woman in her thirties," said Captain Roberts describing the suspect. "It was reported she was here last week and asked for some scarves which the Islamic Center did provide for her. She said she had converted to Islam.”

Both Dr. Metwalli and Captain Richards emphasize there have never been any previous incidents or threats against this mosque.

“Our purpose is to create harmony and peace in the community," said. Dr. Metwalli, discussing their food pantry and other charitable events including regularly feeding the homeless.

The Kent County Prosecutor's Office will review the case Tuesday and the woman will be identified when and if she is formally arraigned.

This is a developing story.  We'll update it as more information becomes available.  Follow FOX 17's Dana Chicklas on Twitter for the latest from the scene.