Women who snatched items from Tempe mosque indicted; 1 faces child-endangerment charges
Tahnee Gonzales appears in court for an initial appearance on March 16, 2018.
Two women who drew international criticism after filming themselves pilfering items from a Tempe mosque have been charged with third-degree burglary and aggravated criminal damage, court records show, with one facing additional child-endangerment and disorderly-conduct charges.
Tahnee Gonzales and Elizabeth Dauenhauer were indicted March 22, two and a half weeks after a video posted to Gonzales' Facebook page showed them snatching items from the Islamic Community Center of Tempe.
Claiming they were there to expose "the infiltration of the Arabic Muslim coming in and destroying America," the women broadcast themselves encouraging Gonzales' three children to help them take stacks of pamphlets and brochures to stop the spread of "propaganda."
For nearly 25 minutes, the pair ridiculed Muslims as pedophiles, freeloaders and disease-carriers while pulling down fliers offering social services and financial help to mosque members.
Though Gonzales, 32, and Dauenhauer, 51, deleted their Facebook accounts after the video began to spread, the footage remains available on other profiles.
Indictment: Women acted deliberately
The indictment contends the women entered the mosque deliberately intending to "commit a theft or a felony therein." It says they "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly" caused damage "by defacing, damaging, or changing the appearance of Announcement Boards."
Gonzales faces additional child-endangerment charges because she put her three kids at risk and allowed their "moral welfare to be imperiled," the indictment says.
The video showed Gonzales telling her children not to touch the mosque's playground equipment or funeral vans, saying they didn't know "what filth has been on there" and that items touched by Muslims could be "disease-ridden."
"They multiply," Gonzales said as she filmed, at one point implying Muslims endorse pedophilia and "smell like goats" because they have sex with them. She praised the children when they echoed some of her comments.
The video suggests Gonzales might have been armed, despite multiple signs prohibiting weapons at the mosque. She could be heard talking about taking a gun out of her backpack and asking her son to "go take it back" to the car.
The final charge against Gonzales, for disorderly conduct, stems from her use of "abusive or offensive language or gestures in a manner likely to provoke immediate physical retaliation," the indictment says.
MORE ON WOMEN IN TEMPE MOSQUE:
Woman accused in Tempe mosque burglary has history of arrests
Police: Women who snatched items from Tempe mosque arrested
Kids in tow, women mock Muslims inside Tempe mosque
The video ended with Gonzales accosting a man standing near one of the community center's doors, yelling at him not to touch or eat her dog before launching into a tirade against "Sharia law."
Muslims increasingly targeted
The mosque controversy comes during an extended uptick in anti-Muslim sentiment. Assaults against Muslim Americans have been climbing since late 2015.
Ahmad Al-Akoum, imam at the Tempe mosque, said a group of agitators shows up nearly every Friday to "stand on the sidewalk and yell at members, tearing up a copy of the Koran to antagonize them."
Al-Akoum told The Republic earlier this month he had “mixed emotions" about the women's arrests and criminal cases.
“I really hate for people to be in trouble with the law,” he said. “However, I think the lesson needs to be taught to everybody who feels they’re entitled to infringe on other people’s properties and rights."
Gonzales and Dauenhauer are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.
“One helpful rule for being a Muslim on the internet – don’t read the comments.” This is from a series of short films called The Secret Life of Muslims, created by filmmaker Joshua Seftel.