A convenience store in Port St. Lucie, Florida, was nearly set on fire Friday by a man who thought its owners were Muslim and who wanted “to run the Arabs out of our country.” Police said the store owners are Indian.
Ken Mascara, St. Lucie County Sheriff, said that the man arrested – 64-year-old Richard Leslie Lloyd — told authorities that he was angered by Muslims for “what they are doing in the Middle East,” according to a post on the office’s Facebook page.
Mascara said it “will be the responsibility of the state attorney’s office to consider whether this was an intentional hate crime.”
Lloyd rolled a dumpster in front of the Met Mart before lighting its contents on fire, Mascara said. The store was closed, with no one inside, and behind security shutters. The fire was put out before it could do much damage.
Lloyd was found in front of the store and charged with fire-degree arson, and is held on a $30,000 bond.
“The man … told deputies that he pushed the dumpster to the front of the building, tore down signs posted to the outside of the store and lit the contents of the dumpster on fire to ‘run the Arabs out of our country,’” Mascara said.
According to the arrest affidavit, Lloyd said he was “doing his part for America.”
(St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office)
“It’s unfortunate that Mr. Lloyd made the assumption that the store owners were Arabic when, in fact they are of Indian descent,” Mascara said. “Regardless, we will not tolerate violence based on age, race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status, mental or physical disability.”
The incident follows the shooting of a Sikh man, Deep Rai, in Seattle earlier this month, who was told to “Go back to your country” on his own driveway, and the shooting of two Indian men inside a Kansas bar last month by a gunman who told them to “Get out of my country,” which resulted in one dead and two injured.
On Saturday, South Asian Americans Leading Together, a civil rights organization, held a vigil on the steps of Capitol Hill to honor hate violence victims. Congressional members Reps. Pramila Jayapal, Ami Bera, Joe Crowley and Ro Khanna were also in attendance.
“At a time when South Asian, Sikh, Muslim, Hindu and Arab community members are facing hate violence and harassment on nearly a daily basis, we need real leadership from Washington to stem the tide of injustice,” said Suman Raghunathan, SAALT executive director, in a statement. “Waiting nearly a week before commenting on a deadly shooting in Kansas won’t do it. Issuing a second toxic Muslim Ban won’t do it. We need direct action from this administration to forge inclusion, justice and hope in this quintessential nation of immigrants.”