A Florida man determined to “run the Arabs out of our country” attempted to burn down a convenience store that he mistakenly thought was Muslim-owned, police said.
Cops were called to a Met Mart in Port St. Lucie after 64-year-old Richard Lloyd was seen acting suspiciously by the store’s entrance around 7:40 a.m. on Friday, according to officials.
“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 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 at the time of the incident and firefighters quickly extinguished the dumpster fire without it causing any property damage.
Lloyd told investigators that he decided to try and burn down the Met Mart because he was angry about what followers of Islam “are doing in the Middle East,” adding he thought the store owners were Muslim.
But the enraged alleged arsonist was mistaken.
“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. “Regardless, we will not tolerate violence based on age, race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status, mental or physical disability.”
Lloyd told cops he was “doing his part for America” and had hoped that the dumpster blaze would burn the entire building to the ground once the flames were fed by the beer and wine inside the store, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by WPTV.
Lloyd was charged with first degree arson and remained at the St. Lucie County Jail in lieu of a $30,000 bond as of late Saturday, according to records.
He apparently has a history of mental illness, and will undergo psychiatric evaluation, cops said. The state attorney’s office will look into whether the Friday fire should be investigated as an intentional hate crime.
Hate crimes against Muslims surged by over 65% in 2015, according to the latest FBI statistics. Some religious leaders tie the crime spike to the rise of President Trump, who critics say fueled Islamophobia and racism as a candidate.