The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 10, 2012

Woman in minivan near scene of mosque fire says she called 911

Globe carrier said to have spoke with woman's husband

— A passenger in a minivan parked in front of the Islamic Society of Joplin mosque Monday morning as it burned said she was on the phone with 911 while her husband chatted with a Joplin Globe delivery driver.

Brittany Felton said her minivan is silver, not brown, as newspaper carrier Carey Stiger described it. Felton said she has talked with the FBI.

Felton said she was riding with her husband, who was driving to his workplace when they approached the mosque. Her husband was driving and she was in the front passenger seat, she said.

“At that time, there was a big, billowing cloud of smoke,” Felton said. “I got on the phone to call 911 and by the time I got off the phone, there were flames.”

Felton said she noticed when Stiger drove up to ask her husband if he had called 911. She said he responded that they had 911 on the line at that moment.

Stiger didn’t mention seeing more than one occupant, a man, in the minivan. She said she caught only a glimpse of him. Asked about it on Friday, she said she noticed only the man in the driver’s seat, “but it was dark.”

Felton said reflections and the darkness at 3:30 a.m. might account for her silver minivan appearing brown.

Felton said her husband drove around to the rear of the building to make sure no one was there. She said the only thing that caught the couple’s attention was something burning on the ground. She described it as the size of a pie plate.

She said they saw nothing else that seemed suspicious.

She said they pulled up to the intersection of 13th Street and Black Cat Road to wait for the fire department.

“We were there until the fire department arrived,” she said.

That also contradicts the account of Stiger, who said she saw the minivan speeding away as she returned to the mosque to deliver the paper she had forgotten to deliver earlier.

Felton said she and her husband watched from the intersection as Stiger returned to the mosque.

Stiger said she saw no firetrucks and heard no sirens, and thought she had been duped by the man in the van. It was then that Stiger said she told her son to call 911.

Felton said she disagrees with Stiger about her husband resembling the man in the surveillance video of a fire on July 4 that caused minor damage to the roof of the mosque and was intentionally set.

“My husband definitely does not fit the description on the video by any means,” Felton said. “We were out of the country on the Fourth, anyway.”

She estimated that it took the fire department five to seven minutes to arrive.

“It seemed like longer, because I’m sitting there watching the building burn to the ground,” she said.

Jasper County Sheriff Archie Dunn on Monday said it was a newspaper carrier who had called 911 to report the fire. Felton said the FBI told her that authorities didn’t initially realize there had been an earlier 911 call.

April Tarrant, director of Jasper County Emergency Services, said Friday there were two calls to 911 reporting the mosque fire. The first was received at 3:31 a.m. The second was received at 3:35 a.m. She said the Missouri open-records law didn’t allow her to reveal anything that would identify the callers.

When she was asked when she made her call, Felton said 3:31 (a.m.). Asked the same question, Stiger said 3:35 (a.m.).

Bill Dunn, Carl Junction’s fire chief, said his department was notified by 911 dispatch at 3:32 a.m. and arrived at the fire at 3:38 a.m.

Neither the FBI nor the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department on Friday would comment on the matter.

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