Corvallis man denies firebombing mosque

Published: Saturday, Dec. 11 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

CORVALLIS, Ore. — No stranger to scuffles with the law, Cody Crawford's latest troubles began the day after a firebomb destroyed an office in a Corvallis mosque and FBI agents and local police raided his home.

Authorities were investigating the arson-caused fire at the Islamic center where the teen accused in the Portland bomb plot once worshipped, and they had found a flashlight after the Nov. 28 fire. Crawford, 24, said it looked like his.

Police and the FBI took DNA samples and seized computers, digital camera equipment, a gas can and a lighter from his house and sent the evidence off to be examined.

Authorities won't say whether they have identified a suspect in the arson and they won't talk about Crawford, but court documents show they're interested in him.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Crawford said he's "100 percent innocent," that he's a peaceful person and does not dislike Muslims.

"They're all just normal people. We are all people," said Crawford.

If he's peaceful now, he hasn't always been. He was frequently in trouble with the law — accused in years past of assault, breaking a window when he was in jail, and throwing a cup of urine at a deputy, among other offenses.

But Crawford told The AP he's changed. He'd been excelling in community college and was released from probation two weeks before an FBI agent knocked on his door.

Crawford said he agreed to be interviewed by The AP to show that he is being unfairly targeted by police.

Neighbors and classmates describe Crawford as a sweet young man who loves school and is eager to be a good dad to his 4-year-old boy. He was chairman of the parents' council of the Corvallis Head Start program and recently did some work with Habitat for Humanity.

"He's always answering questions and he's always on the top of his game," said Alan Turner, a classmate at the local community college.

But even Crawford's relatives have expressed worry about his past behavior. After he was thrown into a county jail last year his sister told a sheriff's deputy he was "delusional," that he "had not been himself lately" and he had even said he worked with the CIA, according to a sheriff's office report.

The fire at the mosque burned an administrator's office.

The FBI and Corvallis police hunted for clues from neighbors. Their interest was piqued when Crawford volunteered that a small flashlight had disappeared from his porch. His description resembled one they'd found at the crime scene.

Authorities returned later to show Crawford a picture of the flashlight. He said it looked like his. And at 1:10 a.m. police and FBI agents arrived to raid the home where Crawford lives with his son, his 21-year-old sister and their 56-year-old mother.

Crawford told The AP he's now uncertain the flashlight authorities found is even his. In the picture, it had a black stripe that didn't look familiar, he said.

The raid came a year and a half after Crawford was arrested for jaywalking while drunk and for spitting and throwing urine on jail guards. While in jail he said the CIA was after him and his son was in danger, delusions that worried authorities and his family.

The episode was a low point, he told The AP. He maintains he never broke the law but agreed to a plea deal in order to get back to his son faster.

"I was just out of it," he said. "I'd never wish that on anyone, what I went through."

A day before his arrest last June he'd returned to Oregon for the first time after spending six years in Panama, falling in love with a local woman and having a son.

He said the relationship had devolved and he'd developed a chemical dependence on alcohol.

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