Suspect in Bellevue mosque arson pleads not guilty

Police believe the suspect started the fire by lighting a mound of toilet paper.

The 18-year-old man suspected of burning down the Islamic Center of Eastside in March pleaded not guilty to the crime on April 12, the King County Prosecutor’s Office reported.

Carlos Daniel Diaz-Cruz of Bellevue faces one count of first-degree arson after Bellevue police arrested him for allegedly starting a fire at the Bellevue mosque, located at 14230 NE 21st St., on March 21. They believe he started the fire by lighting a pile of toilet paper on fire with a cigarette lighter.

The building had been vacant since Jan. 14, 2017 when it was first set on fire. Isaac Wayne Wilson, 37, pleaded guilty last year to reckless burning in that case.

Police believe Diaz-Cruz and friends were hanging out in the abandoned building when the suspect allegedly began vandalizing the building and stacking toilet paper in the middle of the downstairs room.

Charging documents state his friends tried to tell him to stop, but the suspect continuously lit the tissue on fire until it inflamed, causing the young men to flee the area.

Police were able to identify the teens from video surveillance and with the help of Bellevue School District personnel.

When investigators searched the building, they found mattresses, graffiti and garbage inside, as though the building had been in use for some time prior to the fire.