Howard County police today announced the arrests of two teenage boys in a series of apparent racially motivated arson and destruction cases that targeted Asian business owners.
The 15-year-olds, one from Columbia and the other from Elkridge, face 25 counts, including arson, destruction of property and a hate crime, according to police. Authorities did not release their names.
The investigation began in early July after the owner of the Great Wall restaurant in the 6300 block of Washington Blvd. in Elkridge reported four incidents in which fireworks or fires were set on the roof of the business. In one case, a note was left telling the owner to relocate the restaurant, police said.
The restaurant owner also reported in early August that a Dumpster was set on fire. The same night, a rock was thrown through the window of a Dollar Store across the street from the restaurant, police said.
The next night, the Dollar Store's window was broken again and the Great Wall's roof was again set on fire. After these incidents, the owner of the Great Wall received multiple phone calls that threatened more fires if the business did not relocate, according to authorities.
The owners of both businesses are Asian, police said.
Officers conducting surveillance in the area later saw two teenage boys throw a rock into a residential community. According to police, the boys matched a photo taken by the restaurant owner after eggs were thrown at him in an earlier incident.
They were stopped and identified, and authorities said the boys gave a detective cell phone numbers that matched numbers captured by Caller ID at the Great Wall restaurant.
Both boys were arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree arson, three counts of second-degree arson, four counts of fourth-degree malicious burning, four counts of threatening arson, two counts of setting fire to trash containers, one count of harassment of a person for ethnic reasons, one count of conspiracy, two counts of malicious destruction of property more than $500 and six counts of malicious destruction of property less than $500.