A Florida man is accused of trying to burn down a convenience store because he thought it was owned by Muslims.
Richard Lloyd, 64, told investigators he wanted to “‘run the Arabs out of our country,'” the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said.
The Met Mart convenience store in Port St. Lucie was not severely damaged. The store’s owners are actually of Indian descent, police said.
According to the TC Palm newspaper, Lloyd told investigators “he went there to buy orange pineapple juice a few days earlier. He said the store doesn’t sell it, which made him mad. He also assumed an employee was Muslim, which made him mad.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Lloyd Pushed a Dumpster to the Front of the Store & Lit Its Contents on Fire in Hopes of Burning Down the Building
Richard Lloyd was arrested at the scene of the fire, the Met Mart store at 100 Prima Vista Boulevard in Port St. Lucie, on March 10, the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release.
Police were called about 7:40 a.m. to the store for a report of a suspicious person.
“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 said in a statement. “Upon seeing our deputies, the man put his hands behind his back and said ‘take me away.'”
The store was not open and its security shutters were closed.
He hoped the contents of the dumpster, including wine and beer, would cause a big enough fire to burn down the store, police said.
“I think what is most important is that we again have residents of our community calling law enforcement when they see something that just doesn’t seem right,” Mascara said. “I would like to thank those who contacted 9-1-1 when they noticed Mr. Lloyd in front of the store, they may have helped us avoid a much more significant incident.”
The fire did cause “visible smoke damage” to the building, WPEC-TV reports.
2. He Told Police Muslims Make Him Angry ‘Due to What They Are Doing in the Middle East’
Lloyd told investigators he assumed the store was owned by a Muslim and that made him angry, according to WPTV.
He said Muslims make him angry “due to what they are doing in the Middle East,” police said.
“It’s unfortunate that Mr. Lloyd made the assumption that the store owners were Arabic when, in fact, they are of Indian descent,” Sheriff Ken 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.”
3. He Said He Was ‘Doing His Part for America’ & Has a History of Mental Illness
Lloyd told police he was “doing his part for America” by trying to burn down the store, WPTV reports.
According to court documents obtained by the news station, Lloyd told investigators he has a long history of mental illness.
Police did not provide any other details about his mental health history.
4. Hate Crimes Against Muslims Spiked in 2015 & There Have Been Several Recent Incidents Where Indians Were Mistakenly Targeted
The incident in Port St. Lucie is the latest in a string of incidents where Indians were targeted by Islamophobic attackers who believed they were Muslim.
A man in Olathe, Kansas, opened fire on two Indian men, killing one, at a bar, after making racial comments and telling them to “get out of my country.” A third man who tried to intervene was also shot.
The FBI said hate crimes against Muslims surged by 67 percent in 2015.
5. He Was Being Held on $30,000 Bail & Could Face Hate Crime Charges
Richard Leslie Lloyd was arrested at the scene and charged with first-degree arson. He was being held on $30,000 bail after his first court appearance and was ordered to stay away from the store if released.
During the hearing, he told a judge he plans to represent himself, WPTV reports.
He could still face hate crime charges, the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said. He will be undergoing a mental health evaluation and the state attorney’s office will determine if those charges will be added.