A Florida man who claims to have a history of mental illness is accused of trying to burn down a convenience store whose owners are of Indian descent because he wanted to “run the Arabs out of our country,” according to police.
Richard Leslie Lloyd, 64, was arrested Friday for attempting to set fire to the Met Mart in Port St. Lucie, Florida, Sheriff Ken Mascara announced in a statement the same day. He was charged with first-degree arson and is being held on $30,000 bail, authorities said.
Attorney information for Lloyd was not immediately known.
St. Lucie County deputies encountered Lloyd after responding to a call around 7:40 a.m. ET of a white man acting suspiciously outside the Met Mart, police said.
“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. “Upon seeing our deputies, the man put his hands behind his back and said ‘take me away.’”
The store was still closed and firefighters extinguished the fire, police said.
“The man, identified as Richard Lloyd, was read his Miranda Rights and then told deputies that he pushed the dumpster to the front of the building, tore down signs posted to the outside of the store and lit the contents of the dumpster on fire to ‘run the Arabs out of our country,’” Mascara said.
The sheriff’s office said it’s up to the state attorney’s office to determine if this was an intentional hate crime. Lloyd’s mental health will also be evaluated, police said.
Lloyd told authorities that he has a long history of mental health issues, according to an arrest affidavit.
Lloyd allegedly became angry a few days earlier when he went to the Met Mart to buy Tropicana pineapple orange juice, which it didn’t sell, the affidavit said.
“Lloyd said he noticed that the worker was Arab and he assumed that he was Muslim,” the affidavit reads. “He said that also made him mad.”
The store owner is of Indian descent, the sheriff’s office said.
In setting the dumpster alight, Lloyd allegedly told authorities his plan was to have the building catch fire and “once it was burning, the amount of alcohol inside the building (beer and wine) would burn it to the ground and crack the concrete slab,” according to the arrest affidavit.
Lloyd added that he “wanted to run them out of America due to what they are doing in the Middle East” and was “doing his part for America,” the affidavit alleges.
Lloyd’s arrest comes as men of Indian descent have been targeted in what federal authorities are investigating as possible hate crimes.
In late February, two men from India working as engineers at Garmin were shot, one fatally, at a bar in a Kansas City suburb. The shooter allegedly said “go back to your country,” witnesses have said. A third man was wounded by a bullet when he tried to intervene.
Most recently, a Seattle-area Sikh man was shot in the arm on March 3 as he worked on a car in his driveway, police said. He was also told something "to the effect of: Get out of our country. Go back to where you're from," police said.
Authorities released a sketch of the partly-masked man, but no arrests have been made.