Man beaten outside Islamic Center of Fort Pierce describes attack

Posted at 6:16 AM, Jul 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-21 06:37:18-04

The State Attorney’s Office is still determining if a case involving a man being attacked outside a Fort Pierce mosque will be treated as a hate crime.

That victim, Abdelhameed Abdelhameed, however, believes his religion and race may have been a factor in the violence.

On the last Friday of Ramadan, Abdelhameed said he was worshipping at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce early in the morning.

“I was coming here to recite the Quran around 3 a.m.,” Abdelhameed said.

When he was ready to leave, he says he realized he locked his keys in his car.  He retrieved a hanger and worked to open the door.

Meanwhile, he says he noticed a man sitting in a truck nearby. It wasn’t suspicious at first, but then Abdelhameed said the man approached him, asking to see his identification.

Abdelhameed said the man seemed concerned that he was breaking into the car. When Abdelhameed tried to explain his situation, the man became violent.

“There’s nobody that’s going to be wearing my [religious] clothes and try to break into a car,” Abdelhameed said.

The man, identified as 25-year-old Taylor Mazzanti, punched him more than once, according to Abdelhameed.

“I turned around and that’s when he punched my face and broke my tooth,” he said.

Other comments made by Mazzanti lead Abdelhameed to believe his race or religion also fueled the violence.

“He says, 'You need to go back and pray in your country,'“ said Abdelhameed.

It leaves Abdelhameed worried about his safety when he worships.

“Coming here at night, I think I will just park right next to the gates and run inside because now I don’t know who I’m going to have to face,” he said.

He isn’t sure if the violence had anything to do with the Orlando shooting, but hopes people will remain peaceful.

“I've been here 20 years, I never faced a situation like that,” said Abdelhameed.

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