In a incident of hate crime, a man in Florida tried to burn down a convenience store owned by Indian-Americans mistaking them as "Arabs" on Friday (March 10), St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said. The fire was put out quickly and didn't cause a lot of damage since the store was closed and protected by security shutters, he said.
Richard Lloyd, 64, told the deputies that he wanted to "run the Arabs out of our country" and thought that the owners of the convenience store were Muslims. He was reportedly angry of "what they are doing in the Middle East," Mascara said. Lloyd was charged with first-degree arson and booked into the St. Lucie County Jail. His bail bond is set at $30,000.
Lloyd lit a dumpster he had pushed in front of the Port St. Lucie store, Mascara said in a news release posted on Facebook. When the police found the fire, a man, reportedly named Lloyd, put his hands behind his back and told the police to take him away.
"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.
The sheriff added that Lloyd's mental health will be evaluated and the state attorney's office would decide if the incident was a hate crime.
Lloyd told the policemen that he had tried to buy a bottle of Tropicana organe pineapple juice a few days ago but the store didn't have it. He was also upset since he assumed the employee was Muslim, reported CNN affiliate WPEC. He also said that by burning the building he "was doing his part for America," WPEC said.
An Indian man named Srinivas Kuchibhotla was killed last month in an alleged hate crime in Kansas. The gunman had shot Kuchibhotla thinking him an "Iranian". Two more Indians have been shot since Kuchibhotla. The safety of Indians has been raised by the Indian government with the US government. US President Donald Trump had expressed regret over the shootings.