Fear, Caution and Anger on Display as Quran-Wielding Man Arrested in Denton

Nerves are raw across the nation in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Orlando, as the city of Denton found Wednesday morning when a screaming man carrying an armload of Qurans tried to gain entry to a courthouse.  
On Wednesday morning, Peshwaz Azad Waise walked into the Denton County Courthouse wielding a stack of Qurans and hollering that he needed to give them to the judges, witnesses say.  “Who’s the judge? I’m the king,” recalls Juan Perales, who saw him pacing back in forth in front of the metal detectors.

Despite social media reports, Waise wasn’t wearing long robes, but simply shorts that were too large for him, a blue button-up shirt and a loosely wrapped head scarf. His beard wasn’t long, but scruffy. “I hate to say it, but he looked Middle Eastern,” Perales says.

Some witnesses claim he was tackled inside the building, and others say he was running outside of the courthouse when law enforcement officials detained him. Witnesses agree that he was screaming, “Get your hands off me! You’re hurting me!” 

As news helicopters swarmed like buzzards, Denton Police Public Information Officer Orlando Hinojosa addressed news media in the shade of the courthouse, providing details.

A little after 8 a.m., police received a "suspicious person" report at 200 North Bonnie Brae, Hinojosa said. Upon arrival, police learned that the suspect had made a terroristic threat but left the medical center before officers arrived. When he walked into the courthouse, he got the attention of a Denton County Sheriff’s deputy, who called police. He was arrested for making a terroristic threat and transported to jail.

Denton Police issued a press release claiming Waise had entered the Women's Center of the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. "He told them to give the Quran to the chaplain or chapel or die."  

Hinojosa claimed that police had sectioned off the parking lot to inspect the suspect’s vehicle just in case he may have had a bomb inside the car. He assured the media that the suspect’s threat didn’t involve a bomb. But he did verify that the suspect had driven to the courthouse to give judges copies of the Quran. Hinojosa also added that the suspect never mentioned the word ISIS, referring to the Islamic State. 

Witnesses claimed he never made it into the courtroom to give the judge a copy of the Quran.

Police had to get an arrest warrant. Defense attorneys gathered at the courthouse said this indicates that a misdemeanor charge is coming.  If Waise were committing a felony, they said police wouldn’t have needed an arrest warrant.

Some witnesses claim Waise was speaking Arabic and English as he paced inside, trying to hand out the Quran.  “We already have to deal with what’s inside, and now we have to deal with what’s outside,” said one witness, who appeared in court this morning.
The initial spate of social media posts riled up residents. Denton resident Bryce McCallum wasn't scheduled to appear in court but drove over to check out what was happening. He said he saw social media explode with reports that two men — not one — wearing turbans and long robes had caused the evacuation of the courthouse.

None of those events happened, but he nonetheless vented frustration that extended beyond the incident in Denton and seemingly tapped into the anger caused by the mass murder in Orlando. “People are afraid to offend somebody, but it’s time to start offending, ” he said. "I’m just a pissed-off American.” 
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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.