Police say man in mosque controversy dies by own hand

LEWISTON, Maine — A Lewiston man who rolled a pig’s head into a local mosque last summer, touching off tensions in minority communities in the city and beyond, shot and killed himself in a parking lot after a brief standoff with police, authorities said.

According to Lewiston police Sgt. Michael Whalen, 34-year-old Brent Matthews committed suicide after police tried to persuade him to put down a semiautomatic handgun, the Maine Sunday Telegram reported.

The shooting occurred around 8:30 a.m. Saturday off Main Street.

Matthews had been charged with a misdemeanor count of desecrating a place of worship and pleaded not guilty. State prosecutors obtained a court order to keep him away from the mosque.

The Sun Journal of Lewiston reported that Matthews phoned 911 in distress at 8:14 a.m., according to police and that when officers arrived Matthews was outside his car and alone.

They tried speaking with him, but Matthews never responded. After just a few minutes, he raised a handgun to his head and fired once, the Lewiston newspaper reported.

“One of our corporals knew him, and he tried to talk him out of it,” Whalen said. “It didn’t work.”

Matthews was taken to Central Maine Medical Center and pronounced dead several hours later.

An aging mill city of about 35,000 along the Androscoggin River, in recent years Lewiston has become home to a large population of Somali refugees.

In 2002, then-Mayor Larry Raymond created a stir by asking Somali community leaders to stop the influx. When white supremacists called a rally, they were shouted down and local residents demonstrated their support for the immigrants.

Matthews had maintained the pig’s head incident was a joke. Muslims are prohibited from eating pork, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations contended the act was an insult upon Islam.

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AP, via SeaCoastOnline.com, USA
Apr. 22, 2007

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This post was last updated: Apr. 23, 2007