By Stephen Magagnini
The FBI is investigating the pre-dawn arson of an Orangevale dry cleaners - which included offensive graffiti and a swastika - as a hate crime. FBI spokesman Steve Dupre said Wednesday.
The blaze, which broke out at 3:30 a.m. at the Star Dry Cleaners in a strip mall in the 9400 block of Madison Avene, was apparently started by someone who broke in through the plate glass window and ignited a gas can, Dupre said. "I think the sprinkers came on and mitigated some of the damage."
The federal ATF and the Sacramento Sheriff's Department have joined the investigation, Dupre said. The graffiti, painted in black on the wall outside the cleaners, included a swatiska and the words "f--- Arab."
One of the owners, Joe Kurt, said he and his sister are "very proud to say we're Arab Christians - Antiochian Orthodox - we have our icon in the middle of the story and many pictures of the holy Virgin Mary."
The family of Palestinian immigrants arrived in the United States in the late '70s and have been in the dry cleaning business in the Sacramento area for more than 30 years, Kurt said. They bought the Orangevale business a year ago. "A Jordanian guy used to own it, he bought it from a Korean who bought it from a Syrian."
A shaken Kurt said the alarm in his house went off between 3:30 and 4 a.m. "I'm all in knots - it's so sad after 9-11," he said, as dozens of customers and friend drove up to give him hugs and condolences. "It's a total loss - we'll have to rebuild. Sacramento Metro Fire, which responded at 4:06 a.m. with 29 firefighters, put out the blaze, which did about $60,000 in damage, Assistant Chief Scott Cockrun said.
Dupre asked anyone with possible knowledge of the crime to call the FBI at (916) 481-9110.
KCRA: Dry cleaner arson investigated as possible hate crime - Sept. 14, 2011
PHOTO CREDIT: Investigators work at the scene of a possible arson fire in Orangevale Wednesday morning. Bryan Patrick, Sacramento Bee.