Columnist

Man pleads guilty to gunfire near York County Muslim village

adys@heraldonline.comJanuary 15, 2014 

— Residents of a Muslim community near York remain concerned for their safety even after a neighbor – who had denied shooting weapons nearby and shouting threats, obscenities and racial slurs before Christmas – pleaded guilty in court.

“Any time someone fires weapons and uses racial slurs, it is a problem,” said Saeed Shakir, mayor of the Islamville community northeast of York. “We are no different than anyone else. We treat people with respect, and we expect to be safe in our homes and on our property.”

Some residents at Islamville, a rural encalve of hundreds of Muslims who have lived there for more than three decades, consider the actions of Joshua Allan Casey, who is white, terrorism and hatred toward the group over religion and race.

In the Dec. 21 incident, Islamville residents called York County Sheriff’s deputies after hearing gunfire and someone yelling racial slurs. When deputies found Casey, 37, walking out of the woods nearby, they smelled alcohol on his breath, according to a sheriff’s report.

Casey denied both firing the weapons and shouting obscenities, despite his wife’s telling deputies he had fired a weapon in the yard, according to the report. Casey was arrested and released on bond shortly afterward.

In an interview with The Herald after the incident, Casey denied shooting the guns and harassing his neighbors.

But now, Casey has pleaded guilty to charges of discharging a weapon and public disorderly conduct, according to York magistrate court records. He paid a fine of $512.50, records show.

“I never had a problem with them before and still don’t,” Casey said of his neighbors Wednesday.

As far as he is concerned, Casey said, paying the fine and pleading guilty means the incident is over. He declined further comment.

The incident sparked anxiety among area Muslims, who have made repeated public overtures to show law enforcement, elected officials and local residents that York County Muslims are no different than anyone else.

Several of the residents work in the building trades and in health care.

The group has hosted York County leaders, the FBI and other law enforcement groups several times at Islamville functions, including a national Muslim Boy Scouts event. Islamville leaders and area Christians have met numerous times in recent years in an effort to increase understanding.

All that has happened even while some national and local media have made spurious claims over the years that Islamville is a trouble spot and a haven for anti-American sentiment.

Ali Rashid, an elder at Islamville who heard the Dec. 21 gunshots and slurs, reiterated that the people who live there are hard-working Americans who practice their faith and live quiet, industrious lives.

“We have always been good neighbors and always will be,” Rashid said.

Islamville residents have many small homes and a place of worship on the grounds.

James “Jumah” Moore, executive director of the South Carolina Islamic Center, which built a mosque in Rock Hill that opened in 2013, offered Islamville residents support after the December incident.

“We always become concerned when people are targeted because of race and religion,” Moore said. “We strive to not just tell people, but show people, that Muslims are part of this community and want it to be safe for all of us.”

Shakir said he was at the magistrate’s office when Casey paid the fine and pleaded guilty. He said Casey did not speak to the two Muslim men who were there, including one of the men who had identified him as the person firing the shots near Islamville.

“These are our homes,” Shakir said. “It concerns us when he says that we were the ones shooting, when it was him. This set of unfortunate circumstances is over now. He paid the fine and pleaded guilty. He went on his way. We left after that, too.”

Casey went home and the Muslims went home. Police advised Casey at the time of his arrest not to trespass on Islamville property.

Woods are all that stand between the neighbors, but, sadly, race and religion separate them, too.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065 •  adys@heraldonline.com

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