Late Tuesday night someone vandalized Turlock City Hall by hurling a rock through a set of windows, and now claims are being made on social media blaming a city councilman's prayer vigil and people are threatening him with violence.
Around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday a security alarm company reported to the Turlock Police Department that an alarm had been triggered at City Hall at 152 S. Broadway. Officers responded to the scene and collected evidence, including the river rock used to break the four windows. The police department said no entry had been made into the building.
Police Chief Nino Amirfar said there are cameras inside City Hall that did get video of the suspect(s) with a flashlight moments before the windows were broken.
Around 5 p.m. Tuesday Councilman Andrew Nosrati had organized a small prayer vigil outside City Hall. Nosrati said the gathering was to pray for unity and was purposely kept small. There were eight people in attendance — Nosrati, Councilwoman Nicole Larson, Councilwoman Becky Arellano, Councilman Gil Esquer and four guests that he brought with him. Mayor Amy Bublak was invited to the prayer vigil, but was unable to attend, Nosrati said.
Nosrati said the entire event took about 30 minutes and involved each person lighting a candle and saying a prayer.
As news spread on social media Wednesday morning that the windows had been broken, blame started falling on the vigil and Nosrati. One Facebook post stated "Andrew Nosrati is responsible for the vandalism to City Hall. He organized the vigil, went against good sound advice, held the vigil anyway and it brought the criminals out of their holes."
"On this evening I invited a small handful of people to pray for God's guidance and wisdom and to inspire unity through these difficult times," Nosrati said. "It has come to my attention that it has been perceived that there may have been a connection between the gathering that I took part in, and the vandalism at City Hall. The thought of that grieves me, and in this difficult period has also led me to reflect further. I have contributed to the division in our community, and for that I ask forgiveness."
Chief Amirfar said he does not believe that anyone involved in the prayer vigil had anything to do with breaking the windows, but does suspect that someone who knew about it took advantage of an opportunity to cause trouble.
"While a breaking of a window in and of itself may not send red flags, the incidents that are happening nationwide with peaceful protests being infiltrated by those who wish to do harm either during the protest or afterwards, and now with the counter protestors, it leads me to believe someone or group may have seen the event and came back later and broke the windows to send a message," Amirfar said. "What that message was supposed to be is a guess."
Nosrati said he purposely wanted to keep it small and didn't publicize it beforehand on social media and only invited the council members and the mayor.
The threats did not contain themselves to social media. On Friday afternoon, Nosrati said he was called and told that if any violence happened at a planned candlelight vigil in Turlock on Friday then he would "be held accountable" and that they knew where he lived.
Nosrati contacted the police about the threats.
Amirfar said this was the first time City Hall has been vandalized.