An unoccupied police car parked outside a mosque in Daytona Beach, Florida, was reportedly firebombed in the early morning of July 17. No suspects have yet been apprehended.
Around 2 a.m. on that day, an unknown person threw what police believe to be a Molotov cocktail into the empty squad car belonging to the Daytona Beach Police Department, the Daytona Beach News Journal reported. The car was parked outside the Islamic Center mosque in Daytona Beach in order to prevent anti-Muslim violence in the wake of the June 12 Orlando shooting.
The cruiser was engulfed in flames and destroyed, resulting in damages of about $20,000.
A note found near the vehicle attributed the act to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The note reportedly read, "Black Lives Matter A. Sterling P. Castile F*** the police."
Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood said he could not confirm whether the firebombing was indeed committed by someone associated with the movement. Police have reportedly launched an investigation into the incident and are currently reviewing security footage taken in the area near the Islamic Center, but as of July 18 no suspects or persons of interest have been identified.
"I really do believe in my heart of hearts that we have a really great rapport with our community overall," Chitwood told the News Journal. "They know that if there's a problem, they can come and talk to us. But there is a radical, small percentage that I think is trying to drive a wedge between all of us.
"If you notice what’s going on in America today, it’s like they're taking a page out of ISIS. Find the disenfranchised folks that don’t want to fix things the right way and have them be fanatical in their attacks. And it's sad. Certainly not the world I want my grandkids to grow up in."
A Daytona Beach resident living in the area where the firebombing occurred told the News Journal in an email that the car was already in flames by the time firefighters arrived on the scene.
"We were in bed and I heard a 'boom' noise," the person, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote in the email. "It sounded like a window being broken and I thought it could be someone trying to break into my boyfriend's car.
"So I looked out the window and didn't see anyone near his car then I looked left and saw the police car was on fire. The police car has been parked there since the Orlando shootings. They move it every now and then but it's always empty. My boyfriend called 911 and it took so long before they got there that by the time they did the entire car was covered in fire. It took a bit to get the fire out."
Chitwood told the News Journal that the person responsible for the attack would be charged with arson as well as damage to a police vehicle if apprehended.
Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were two black men fatally shot by police officers earlier in July. Sterling was shot to death by two white officers while selling CDs outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on July 5. A day later on July 6, Castile was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in St. Paul, Minnesota.
According to data reported between 2002 and 2011 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 3.5 percent of blacks experienced nonfatal force during their most recent encounter with police, as compared to 2.1 percent for Hispanics and 1.4 percent for whites.