STORE FIRE NOT BELIEVED TO BE A HATE CRIME

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Oct. 15, 2001 — While Fire Services officials say a blaze set at an Arab-owned Frederiksted grocery last week was arson, police officials say the crime probably isn’t a backlash from the Sept. 11 attack on the mainland.
At about 4 a.m. Thursday -– one month after terrorist attacks on the mainland -– fire broke out in the Eagle Mini Mart in Frederiksted. According to St. Croix Fire Marshall Alex Rivera, unknown suspects broke a glass door, sprayed gasoline inside and then threw a lighted, gas-soaked T-shirt into the store. The flames ignited the gas, and the resulting fire caused extensive damage to the store and its contents.
Two people were seen running from the scene shortly after the fire broke out, St. Croix Deputy Police Chief Novelle Francis said Monday. Police are working to identify the individuals.
Francis said investigators don’t believe the fire at the Arab-owned store was related to the terrorist attacks, which the U.S. government claims was carried out by Arab extremists.
"We can’t connect it to a hate crime at this point," Francis said, adding that police are investigating the possibility of a dispute between the store owner and other individuals.
Francis said that if a hate-crime connection is made, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will be called in to help with the case.

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