Washington: A 64-year-old man attempted to burn down a convenience store owned by the Indian-Americans in Florida as he mistakenly thought it was owned by Muslims. Richard Lloyd, who wanted to "run the Arabs out of our country", pushed a dumpster in front of the Port St Lucie store and set the contents on fire on Friday.
The store was not open at the time of the incident and firefighters quickly extinguished the fire without it causing any property damage.
"It's unfortunate that Mr Lloyd made the assumption that the store owners were Arabic when, in fact, they are of Indian descent," St Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said. Mascara said Lloyd's mental health will be evaluated and the state attorney's office will decide if this was a hate crime. Lloyd told investigators he tried to buy a bottle of juice at the store a few days ago but was told they did not have any. He was also upset because he assumed the store employee was Muslim, CNN affiliate WPEC reported.
He said he was angry with what followers of Islam "are doing in the Middle East" and thought the store owners were Muslims. Lloyd was charged with first-degree arson and remained at the St Lucie County Jail in lieu of a USD 30,000 bond as of late yesterday, the news channel reported.
He told investigators he "was doing my part for America," and planned to burn the entire building. Hate crimes against Muslims increased by over 65 percent in 2015, according to the FBI statistics.
Some religious leaders attribute the crime spike to the rise of President Donald Trump, who critics say fuelled Islamophobia and racism as a candidate.
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Updated Date: Mar 12, 2017 16:28:34 IST