A Florida man was arrested after he allegedly tried to burn down a convenience store he mistakenly thought was owned by a Muslim man, officials said.
Deputies with the St. Lucie County Sherriff’s Office responding to a call of a suspicious man found Richard Leslie Lloyd, 64, trying to set fire to the Met Mart store in Port St. Lucie at about 7:40 a.m. Friday, 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,” Sheriff Ken Mascara said in a statement. “Upon seeing our deputies, the man put his hands behind his back and said, 'Take me away.'"
Lloyd allegedly told deputies that he pushed the dumpster to the front of the building, tore down signs posted outside the store and lit the contents of the dumpster on fire, authorities said.
The store was closed at the time.
Officials said Lloyd claimed to have set the fire to "run the Arabs out of our country."
Lloyd said he was “doing his part for America,” according to an arrest affidavit obtained by WPTV.
He said he assumed the owner of the store was Muslim and it angered him because of "what they are doing in the Middle East," the sheriff said.
But the store owner is of Indian descent, 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," 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 also told investigators he went to the store a few days before the incident to buy a bottle of Tropicana Orange Pineapple Juice and left angry when he learned the store did not sell the juice, WPEC-TV reported.
Lloyd was charged with first-degree arson and was booked into the St. Lucie County Jail in lieu of $30,000 bond.
His mental health will be evaluated and it will be the state attorney’s responsibility to consider whether the incident was an intentional hate crime, officials said.
Lloyd allegedly admitted he has a long history of mental health issues, WPTV wrote.
During a court appearance Saturday, Lloyd reportedly told a judge he wants to represent himself.
He was ordered to stay away from Met Mart and to have no contact with the store’s employees.