One day after a St. Johns County man suspected in the pipe bombing of a Jacksonville mosque was shot and killed by FBI agents in Oklahoma, Islamic leaders thanked law enforcement and the community.
"Thank God this chapter is coming to a close," said Ashraf Shaikh of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida. "It is very, very said that a life has to be lost on account of this incident."
Sandlin Matthew Smith, 46, was shot and killed Wednesday afternoon as agents and Oklahoma state troopers tried to serve an arrest warrant on charges connected to the May 10, 2010, bombing as 60 people were worshiping inside the Islamic Center on St. Johns Bluff Road.
FBI Special Agent Jeff Westcott said agents learned late Tuesday that Smith was staying in a tent in a park in the rugged foothills of the Glass Mountains in northwest Oklahoma.
"We have not been following him all along," FBI Special Agent Jim Casey said. "At a few different points, we were able to pick up where he was."
Agents said that Smith refused to surrender and pulled out a firearm. Agents opened fire and killed Smith, FBI officials said.
A FBI spokesman in Oklahoma said Smith was carrying an AK-47 when he was killed.
Smith was facing several federal charges, including damage to religious property and possession of a destructive device, in connection with the bombing.
"I think as the result of this investigation and others ... has been very instrumental in keeping northeast Floridians safe for all faiths," Sheriff John Rutherford said.
In addition to the sheriff and FBI, civic and religious leaders were also at Thursday morning's news conference at the Islamic Center.
Most echoed the message that they were pleased the community came together to denounce the bombing as a hate crime and help solve this case.
"We believe very strongly that faith, if it is to be authentic, is to be free. If one person does not freedom to practice his particular faith, then that is of concern to all of us," said Pastor Kyle Reece of Hendricks Avenue Baptist. "We hope that through this very troubling chapter with the Islamic Center, that the city will continue to mature."
Year-Long Investigation Leads FBI To Sandlin Smith
Days after the bombing, FBI officials released two pieces of surveillance video in hopes the public could help them identify the bomber. A man in one of the videos was not Smith, investigators said.
They said there was a third piece of video they did not release in which a black Toyota Tundra was seen.
Investigators said they used that evidence in case a tipster called them and described that truck. Investigators said that black pickup truck was found near the Oklahoma scene where agents found Smith.
Investigators said they obtained a warrant and searched two areas of St. Johns County over the weekend, where they found bomb-making materials.
In a criminal complaint on Smith, FBI Special Agent Brett A. Eubank detailed the year-long investigation.
Eubank describes interviews with those close to Smith saying, "The reason he bombed the mosque was because he was angry about our men going overseas, fighting and dying."