OAKLAND, Calif. – A liquor store was heavily damaged by an apparent arson fire Monday, just days after it was trashed by well-dressed vandals who told the owners to stop selling to black people, authorities said.
Police had no suspects in the fire, which was reported about 1 a.m. They refused to say whether they believed the blaze at New York Market was connected to vandalism last week at the store and the nearby San Pablo Market and Liquor in West Oakland.
Deputy Police Chief Howard Jordan said police would seek arrest warrants on charges of terrorist threats, conspiracy, vandalism and robbery against six men suspected of trashing the two liquor stores.
Workers at both stores said that a group of about a dozen men dressed in suits and bow ties stormed into the shops, smashed liquor bottles and knocked over racks of food. At least one attack was captured on a video surveillance camera.
"In both incidents, the suspects entered the store and questioned why a Mulsim-owned store would sell alcoholic beverages when it is against the Muslim religion," police said in a statement.
The men, all of whom were black, told the owners to stop selling alcohol to black people, authorities said.
Investigators were looking into the incidents as hate crimes because the stores' owners are of Middle Eastern descent and are Muslims, Jordan said.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was assisting police with the investigation.
Minister Tony Muhammad, West Coast leader for the Nation of Islam, has spoken out against allegations the group was connected to the vandalism and condemned the acts. Oakland police said the group, known for wearing suits and bow ties, was not under investigation.
Police also said their investigation "concluded that the individuals responsible are not associated with the Nation of Islam, under the leadership of minister Louis Farrakhan, or its mosques and study groups."