Richard Lloyd, a 64-year-old man from Florida, tried to set on fire a convenience store because he thought that his owners were Muslims. According to St. Lucie County Sheriff, Ken Mascara, Lloyd wanted to “run the Arabs out of our country.”

Lloyd’s plan was to push a dumpster next to the store located in St. Lucie and then burn all of its content, the County Sheriff said through a Facebook post. In those declarations, Mascara stated that Lloyd’s reason to burn the store was that he was angry at Muslims for what they have been doing in the Middle East. However, it turns out that the owners are not Muslims.

Richard Lloyd. Image credit:
Richard Lloyd. Image credit:

“When the deputies arrived, they noticed the dumpster had been rolled in front of the doors and the contents were lit on fire,” Mascara said. “It’s unfortunate that Mr. Lloyd made the assumption that the store owners were Arabic when, in fact, they are of Indian descent.”

Mental illness or hate crime?

Through an official press release, the Florida Police Department stated that specialists would evaluate the mental condition of Mr. Lloyd. Afterward, the State Attorney’s Office will determine if the attempt of burning the store will be considered as an intentional hate crime.

According to a local news source, Mr. Lloyd explained to the authorities that he tried to buy a Tropicana pineapple juice bottle, but the owners told him that they didn’t have any left, a fact that upset him. He was also angered when noticing that the proprietor was Arab (and therefore a Muslim, in his logic). He said that he “was doing his part for America.”

Police authorities arrived at the scene where Lloyd was aside of the burning dumpster. After he had realized the presence of the officers, he put his hands behind his back and asked to be taken away. The building received notable smoke damage to its front structure, but no other damage was reported by the police or the owners themselves.

According to Sheriff Mascara, the state of Florida will not tolerate any crime that is based on hatred or discrimination. He mentioned that every person that commits a crime against another citizen based on age, race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status, mental, or physical disability, must be processed by law enforcement officers and receive a sentence.

Mr. Lloyd was later charged with a first-degree arson and is being held in the St. Lucie County jail, as he was booked in lieu of a $30,000 bond. He told deputies that he has had a long history of mental health issues.
This appears to be the latest of crimes against South Asian descendants in the country. According to the nonprofit group South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), there were more than 200 incidents against South Asian, Muslim, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab communities in the time period between December 2015 and November 2016. That cipher represents a 34 percent increase when compared to the 2014 report of the same organization.