US man sets Florida store on fire to keep ‘Arabs out’

Police charge 64-year-old man with arson after he attempted to set shop ablaze to ‘run the Arabs out of our country’.

US man sets Florida store on fire to keep ''Arabs out''
Prosecutors will determine if Lloyd will be charged with a hate crime [Courtesy: Port St Lucie Police]

A man in the US state of Florida faces a first-degree arson charge after attempting to set a convenience store ablaze because he thought it was owned by Muslims.

Richard Leslie Lloyd, 64, told police he tried to set the Port St Lucie shop on fire to “run the Arabs out of our country”, according to news reports on Sunday.

According to police, however, the shop owners were of Indian descent.

Local television channel WPTV reported that Lloyd was angry at Arabs “due to what they are doing in the Middle East”.

The intended target was the Met Mart store in the town 180km north of the city of Miami. 

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According to police, Lloyd carried out the attack on Friday morning while the shop was still closed.

Police said Lloyd was hoping that by setting a rubbish bin on fire he would ignite a bigger blaze targeting the shop.

“When the deputies arrived, they noticed the dumpster had been rolled in front of the doors and the contents were lit on fire,” Sheriff Ken J Mascara was quoted as saying in a statement.

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“Upon seeing our deputies, the man put his hands behind his back and said ‘Take me away’.”

‘Doing his part for America’

Lloyd said he was “doing his part for America” by carrying out the attack, according to the arrest affidavit.

“It’s unfortunate that Mr Lloyd made the assumption that the store owners were Muslim when, in fact, they are of Indian descent,” said Mascara.

“Regardless, we will not tolerate violence based on age, race, colour, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status, mental or physical disability.”

Police said they will review Lloyd’s mental health, and will leave it to prosecutors to determine if he can be charged with a hate crime.

The attack was the latest in a string of recent assaults targeting minorities in the United States.

On March 3, a Sikh man was shot and wounded outside his home in Seattle in Washington state, a day after a man of Indian origin was killed in the US state of South Carolina.

In late February, an Indian engineer working in Kansas was killed and two other people wounded after a gunman shouting racial slurs opened fire on them.

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Source: Al Jazeera