It started with a burning mailbox three months ago.

Then came a note with “foul language” and racial slurs. Now, Mohammad Ismail is left picking up the rubble of his Blaine convenience store, which was recently set on fire.

“I have no idea. It’s unbelievable, you know. It doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Investigators on Friday said the fire that charred the Blaine Dairy on Jan. 27 was the work of arsonists. They are exploring whether it was a hate crime, Blaine police Capt. Kerry Fenner said. Evidence at the scene indicates it could have been, Fenner said. But he would not specify what that evidence was, citing the ongoing investigation.

Meanwhile, Ismail, 45, is left to wonder why he or his store would be targeted, let alone who may be behind the incidents. He doesn’t know whether his Arab ethnicity has anything to do with it, he said.

Ismail was working in the Blaine store when three men entered about 8:30 p.m. The men lit glass bottles they were carrying and threw them into the store, according to a police report. Ismail suffered minor burns and cuts.

The store, which has been around for more than 35 years, was destroyed in the fire.

“It’s been kind of an icon in that neighborhood,” Fenner said.

Ismail previously owned a convenience store in Mounds View, which he sold because the lease was up and the landlord was raising the rent, he said. (MORE)


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