Another suspect fled when Simi Valley police arrived at the scene, a department spokesman told The Washington Post. That person remains at large.
The mosque, Masjid Al-Rasool, is located in Simi Valley, Calif., about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
At 11:15 p.m., police received several 911 calls that a fight had broken out in a shopping center parking lot in the 1800 block of Erringer Road, the same street where the mosque is located. Authorities arrived, defused the fight and found that a man had been stabbed in the abdomen, police said.
“During their investigation, [officers] discovered a suspect had confronted a worshiper from the mosque, and after a verbal altercation, they began to fight,” Sgt. Adam Darough told the Los Angeles Times. “During the fight, [the suspect] stabbed the victim.”
Police have not identified the victim but told The Post he is a 36-year-old male. As of late Sunday night, the man was in stable condition with a perforated bowel, authorities said.
Sgt. Darough told the Los Angeles Daily News that police decided to charge Matteson with a hate crime based on what the victim was wearing and the mosque’s proximity.
“He may have been targeted because of that and the statements made” to him, Darough said.
Police would not elaborate Sunday night.
“We’re quite concerned that this occurred,” Darough told the Los Angeles Times. “We want to keep people of all faiths safe in the city.”
In an interview with the Daily News, Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Greater Los Angeles office, offered more details about the stabbing.
An eyewitness to the scuffle told Ayloush that Matteson, smelling of alcohol, approached the mosque Saturday night and asked to use the restroom. The suspect left after members of the mosque declined and explained their bathroom was not public, but Matteson later returned, this time with another man, according to Ayloush and the witness.
Matteson then insulted the mosque members, using racial slurs like “sand n—–s,” and threw a bottle that hit a worshiper in the face, Ayloush told the Daily News. The fight and stabbing followed.
The victim, Ayloush said, is a father of two.
“We are unfortunately very heartbroken to know that anyone could hold such anger and hatred to the point they would be willing to stab or use violence against any person just because they are different than them,” Ayloush told the Daily News. “It’s tragic to witness in this day and age, such incidents and especially in a diverse place as Southern California.”
According to court records obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Matteson had been previously investigated by the Simi Valley Police Department several times in recent years. The Times wrote:
He pleaded no contest in October to disturbing the peace by loud noise, an infraction. In July, Matteson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of public intoxication from a June 30 incident, according to court records. He also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of disturbing the peace stemming from a Nov. 9, 2015, incident.
Last year, he also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of making terrorist threats.
Matteson’s father, John Matteson, Sr., told a local TV station, CBS 2, that he prays to God to “fix him or take him.”
“I lost my son already 10,000 times,” Matteson Sr. told the station. “It’s a broken record. It keeps happening over and over again.”
Simi Valley residents told CBS 2 they were disappointed and heartbroken about the alleged hate-crime incident.
“[This incident] breaks my heart,” resident Annette Pearson said. “We all have the rights to worship as we see fit and it just isn’t right.”
Hate-crime incidents have spiked since the recent election of Donald Trump, who his critics say espoused xenophobic and racist rhetoric during his presidential campaign and who at times obliquely discussed his support of a database to track Muslims. Once elected, however, his campaign denied the president-elect ever contemplated such a system.
Since Election Day, CAIR has received nearly 200 reports of hate incidents aimed at Muslims in America, Ayloush told the Associated Press. In 2015, law enforcement agencies reported 257 anti-Muslim incidents for the entire year, up 67 percent from 2014, according to FBI data published last month. The last time the FBI reported more than 160 such incidents in a single year was 2001 — the year the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked. It reported 481 attacks.
Amid the spike in attacks, Attorney General Loretta Lynch plans to visit a Virginia mosque Monday, her first visit to a mosque in her role as attorney general. In a video statement in November, Lynch said the high numbers recently reported by the FBI should be “deeply sobering for all Americans,” reported the AP.