MN: Investigators Say Fire Could Be Hate Crime


Police in Blaine are trying to figure out if an arson at a convenience store was a hate crime.

Two weeks ago, the Blaine Dairy was set on fire after someone threw a fire bomb at the owner.

Mohammad Ismail was closing the store when three men walked inside.

He said one of the men threw a flaming bottle at him. It landed a few feet away.

"All I hear is just glass break and I just duck down between the aisles just hoping that they leave," he said, "I was terrified."

He was surrounded by fire and smoke but waited until he no longer heard the men or the glass. He ran outside the store covering his head. He got away with just a few cuts an bruises.

It wasn't until the following morning that police found graffiti on a door outside. It said "F*** YOU ARAB."

Ismail moved to the United States from Jordan in 1983. He bought the store just seven months ago.

"It was awful. I never thought it would happen, especially to me because I never hurt anybody," he said.

Police are considering whether to classify this as a hate crime. Although the fire and graffiti happened around the same time, police aren't absolutely certain they were done by the same people.

They've sent some evidence from the scene to the state crime lab.

"The evidence is key to where we do with the investigation from here," said Blaine Police Capt. Kerry Fenner.

Ismail hopes insurance will cover some of his loss. He'd like to rebuild. This store was only way he was supporting his wife and three kids.

Friends and family have put up a $3000 reward to help catch the arsonists.

"The worst thing is," he said. "this is all I have."

 


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