A suspect who set a fire and smashed a window at a Buddhist temple in downtown Los Angeles was being sought by police, who were investigating the incident as a hate crime, the Los Angeles Police Department said Friday.
The incident occurred about 7 p.m. Thursday at the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple, in the 500 block of East Third Street.
Officer Mike Lopez with the Los Angeles Police Department said a male jumped the temple gate, lit a fire and damaged property, including a mental lantern and the front window of the building, which he smashed.
Susan Kashiwabara, an office manager at the temple, told City News Service a staff minister who was inside at the time heard the sound of shattering glass and went out to investigate, but by the time he reached the front window, the suspect was gone.
The minister discovered the knocked-down metal lanterns in the temple’s Japanese garden, and put out the fire that had been set to the wooden lantern stands, Kashiwabara said. The flames melted a light fixture above the lanterns, and may have damaged some wiring, she said.
Lopez said the cost of all the damage was more than $6,000.
Staff at the temple were “very saddened by the situation,” which shook the entire community, Kashiwabara told City News Service. “It’s a small community, Little Tokyo,” she added. “It hits home for everybody.”
The staff reviewed surveillance footage, which Kashiwabara said showed that the incident appeared “clearly intentional.”
“Initially, we really didn’t know what to expect, but we do feel, with the area that we’re in, that it could possibly be a crime against Asians,” she told City News Service.
The temple, which is also home to a preschool, has been closed to religious services due to COVID-19.
The suspect, who was wearing a black baseball cap, a gold or yellow shirt and black shorts, fled the scene on foot, Lopez said. Detectives were investigating the incident as a “hate crime, arson,” he said.