A Florida man attempted to burn down a convenience store, admitting, apparently, to local authorities that he thought the owner was Muslim and that he wanted to “run the Arabs out of our country,” the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office confirmed.
As it turns out, the store owners were actually Indian, making the incident the latest in a string of sometimes deadly attacks on South Asians who have been mistaken for people of Arab descent, the Washington Post reports.
Police received calls around 7:40 a.m. Friday reporting that a white male was acting suspiciously in front of the Met Mart convenience store in Port St. Lucie. When deputies arrived at the store, which was closed, with all its security shutters intact, they found 64-year-old Richard Leslie Lloyd near a burning dumpster, authorities said.
“When the deputies arrived, they noticed the dumpster had been rolled in front of the doors and the contents were lit on fire,” St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said in a statement. “Upon seeing our deputies, the man put his hands behind his back and said ‘Take me away.’”
Lloyd told deputies that he pushed the dumpster in front of the store, tore down the signs posted outside the building and then lit the contents of the dumpster on fire to “run the Arabs out of our country.”
Lloyd added that he thought the owner of the store was Muslim and that it made him angry “due to what they were doing in the Middle East.”
“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 sheriff said that Lloyd’s mental health will be evaluated and it will be up to the state attorney’s office to determine whether his actions were an intentional hate crime.
Lloyd is currently being held at the St. Lucie County Jail in lieu of $30,000 bond.
As was said earlier, this is but the latest in a string of attacks against people of Indian descent in a political climate that suffers from heavy anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric.
About three weeks ago, Adam Purinton allegedly shot two Indian men in an Olathe, Kan., bar, killing Srinivas Kuchibhotla and injuring Alok Madasani. Witnesses reportedly heard Purinton scream, “Get out of my country,” before the shooting. Madasani told investigators that the suspect asked the pair if their status “was legal” before shooting them. The FBI is currently investigating that case as a hate crime.