Two teenagers charged in arson and vandalism

Police say incidents are racially motivated

August 10, 2005|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,SUN STAFF

Howard County police have charged two teenagers in what authorities say are a series of racially motivated arsons and vandalism against two Asian business owners in Elkridge.

Police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said that the incidents began July 3 when the two boys, age 15, whose names were not released, set off fireworks on top of the roof of the Great Wall carryout restaurant in the 6300 block of U.S. 1.

Between that date and Aug. 6, the restaurant's owner, who is Chinese, reported another fireworks incident, three small fires on the roof and a fire in a trash bin. In one of the cases, someone left a note, signed "The Elkridge Terror Squad," telling the owner to relocate the restaurant, and the owner also received three phone calls threatening more fires if he did not.

On Aug. 4, one youth threw a rock through the window of the Dollar Shop across from the Chinese restaurant, police said. The same thing happened the next night.

A detective arrested two boys Aug. 6 while conducting surveillance and seeing one throw a rock at a housing complex.

Their appearances matched a photo taken by the restaurant owner of two boys who had thrown eggs at him in an earlier incident. The teenagers, one from Columbia and the other from Elkridge, also provided cell phone numbers that matched the numbers that appeared on caller-ID during the threatening calls to the restaurant, whose owner declined to comment yesterday.

"Extra resources were needed because of the escalating nature of the events," said Deputy Chief Kevin Simmons of the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services. "The fires were small, but menacing and threatening."

The fires did not burn holes in the roof and produced "insignificant damage," department spokesman Bill Mould said.

One of the victims, Eun Il Oh, owner of the Dollar Shop, said she does not know why her large window, in a secluded spot under a portico, would be broken twice.

"I have no idea," said Oh, who is Korean. "I cannot hurt any person."

She replaced the window after both incidents and covered it with plywood. Yesterday, a workman was installing an additional security camera in the ceiling of the store.

The two teenagers face 25 charges each, ranging from two counts of first-degree arson to one count of harassment of a person for ethnic reasons.

Sun Staff writer Larry Carson contributed to this article.

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