A 64-year-old Florida resident has been arrested for trying to set a convenience store on fire because he believed its owners, who are of Indian descent, were Muslims, St Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said on Sunday. The white man, identified as Richard Lloyd, told the police he wanted to “run the Arabs out of our country” because of “what they were doing in the Middle East”.
The state attorney’s office is still deciding on whether this is a hate crime or if Lloyd had mental health problems, CNN reported. He told officers that he was “doing his part for America”.
“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. Lloyd had pushed a dumpster in front of the store and started a fire in it on Friday morning, while the store was closed. Little damage was reported. Lloyd was present at the spot when the police arrived, and asked them to “take me away”. He was booked for first degree arson.
Llyod is believed to have thought up the plan when he visited the store earlier this month and was told it was out of Tropicana juice. He got upset when he assumed the employee who told him so was a Muslim.
India has expressed its grave concern with the Donald Trump administration in the United States after a series of recent hate crimes targeting Indians immigrants and citizens of Indian origin. On February 23, Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla was shot dead at a Kansas City bar by a Navy veteran, Adam Puriton. His friend Alok Madasani and another American, Ian Grillot were also shot at. Eyewitnesses at the Austins Bar and Grill had heard Adam Puriton shout “Get out of my country” before he started shooting at the men, whom he had believed were Arabs.
While the White House condemned the incident, it was quick to say that months of Trump’s divisive rhetoric towards immigrants and Muslims had nothing to do with it.