(Reuters) – A Muslim man was beaten on Saturday outside a Florida mosque attended by the gunman who killed 49 people at an Orlando nightclub, though authorities and a Muslim civil rights group differed as to whether the attack was racially motivated.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said the assault outside the Fort Pierce Islamic Center was reported around 4:11 a.m. local time and that deputies found the victim, who had been punched in the head and face, bleeding from the mouth.
The suspect, 25-year-old Taylor Anthony Mazzanti, was arrested shortly thereafter and booked on a charge of felony battery, the office said.
“Interviews by the deputies and supervisors on scene and a written witness statement completed by the victim do not indicate any racially-motivated comments were made by the suspect prior to, during or after the incident,” Sheriff Ken Mascara said in a statement.
Mascara said the investigation was ongoing.
The Florida branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) gave a different account of the incident.
The organization said a senior official with the Muslim non-profit, ICNA Relief, was with the victim and that the attacker approached spouting racial slurs and other offensive language