Florida man wanted to "run the Arabs out of our country," tries to burn Indian-run store
Police say a 64-year-old Florida resident attempted to burn down a Met Mart in Port St. Lucie after blaming his inability to purchase Tropicana orange pineapple juice on his belief the owners were Muslim, CNN reported.
In a Facebook post, St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara wrote that Richard Leslie Lloyd was arrested after rolling a dumpster in front of the store's doors and lighting its contents on fire. After surrendering to deputies, Lloyd told them he was trying to "run the Arabs out of our country" and was angry at the owners "due to what they are doing in the Middle East," according to the post.
The incident started after Lloyd was unable to purchase the juice at the store days earlier and assumed it was run by Muslims, CBS 12 reported. It is not.
"It's unfortunate that Mr. Lloyd made the assumption that the store owners were Arabic when, in fact, they are of Indian descent," Mascara wrote in the release. "Regardless, we will not tolerate violence based on age, race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status, mental or physical disability."
Authorities charged Lloyd with first-degree arson, CNN reported. The state attorney's office will determine if the incident was a hate crime after Lloyd's mental health has been examined.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit which tracks hate groups, has cataloged numerous accounts of hate crimes and harassment since the Nov. 8 presidential elections, when GOP nominee Donald Trump won the presidency after a long campaign season of hostile racial rhetoric and promises to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. According to the SPLC, the number of anti-Muslim hate groups in the country tripled from 34 in 2015 to 101 in 2016.