Minneapolis man charged with assault in hit-and-run at mosque

The man accused of hitting a pedestrian in the parking lot of a Minneapolis mosque had a history of violent attacks at the center, according to court records.

Hennepin County prosecutors charged 37-year-old James Evan Suttles of Minneapolis on Friday with second-degree assault for allegedly hitting a pedestrian with a minivan in the parking lot of Alhikma Islamic Center Mosque in Minneapolis. 

The criminal complaint alleges that Suttles was known to harass and intimidate people who came to the mosque and had been trespassed from the property just a week before the incident on Wednesday.

According to court records, police responded to the mosque on May 22 for the reported hit-and-run. At the scene, officers spoke with the victim who said he was unloading his car in the parking lot when the driver of a silver minivan, registered to Suttles, entered the lot and proceeded to speed up and hit him.

The man told police he tried to move out of the way, but the driver swerved into him. Charges said the victim ended up on the hood of the minivan before falling to the ground. The man told law enforcement he hit his head and officers noted he had injuries to his knee, left arm and hip. 

Eyewitnesses confirmed the victim’s account to police and said it appeared the driver "intentionally" hit him. 

The minivan driver left the scene, and around 9:30 p.m., law enforcement went to the address on Suttles's driver’s license and found him sitting out front in a silver minivan. Charges allege Suttles attempted to start the van as officers approached, but he was arrested.

According to the complaint, the leader of the mosque said people were concerned for their safety and scared of Suttles as his alleged attacks were against those who attended the mosque and not targeted against a specific person.

The center leader told police that Suttles was trespassed on May 15 after sitting in the parking lot and watching the mosque for an extended time. He added Suttles had previously attacked him in the mosque, charges allege.

Various allegations have been made against Suttles, including assaulting a person who came into the mosque, spraying pepper spray into the building, and slashing several tires in the parking lot. The criminal complaint did not say whether Suttles has been charged or arrested for any of these alleged attacks. 

"We are concerned for the safety and wellbeing of the members of the Alhikma Islamic Center Mosque where this occurred," said Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty in a statement. "In light of Mr. Suttles intentionally hitting the victim with a minivan, as well as his prior violent incidents at this mosque, we are seeking high bail. This was a terrifying incident, and I am thankful the victim did not suffer more serious injuries. We are grateful to the Minneapolis Police Department for taking action quickly to investigate and arrest Mr. Suttles and we will continue to partner with their team to investigate the motive. If through further investigation we determine that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this incident was motivated by bias we will prosecute accordingly." 

According to court records, Suttles has been civilly committed for mental health reasons at least four times since 2015. He remains in custody at the Hennepin County Jail and is scheduled to make his first appearance in court on Tuesday afternoon.