A Florida man set fire to his black neighbor’s car out of apparent jealousy over the “flashy” vehicle.
Joseph Minor walked up to his neighbor at a South Daytona apartment and made racist threats against the man early Sunday morning as he washed and waxed his silver 2002 Mercury.
“I hate you, n*gger, ” Minor Told his neighbor.
The neighbor, Ronald Sweet, told police the 56-year-old Minor had complained that he was “flashy,” threatened to take care of him and his vehicle, and warned his days were numbered.
Sweet and his girlfriend went inside their apartment after the confrontation, and about 10 minutes later heard an explosion outside — and they looked out to see Minor walking away from the burning car.
“It’s absolutely a hate crime,” Sweet said. “It’s absolutely because apparently, he don’t like colored people. He told me my days were numbered. I won’t be flashing anymore.”
A police spokesman disagreed, saying the call history at Minor’s home over the past six months showed no pattern of behavior to indicate a hate crime — and then the officer appeared to make an excuse for the racist attack.
“The reality of it he was intoxicated,” said Capt. Mark Cheatham, of South Daytona police. “He had some mental lapse in judgment.”
Minor denied involvement in the fire, but he also told police he was acting within the law because the apartment complex was unsafe due to the presence of alleged drug dealers.
“As long as nobody witnesses it, you won’t get in to trouble for it,” Minor said, according to police.
Minor claimed he did not call police because he didn’t believe they would do anything about his concerns.
Officers found a scrap of wood, napkin and disposable lighter in Minor’s pocket, and another neighbor reported seeing him walk away from the burning car and toss something into a dumpster.
Minor was charged with arson and criminal mischief, and police said they would investigate whether the attack might be a hate crime.
“The negative comments he was making toward his neighbor, indicating that he hates them specifically for that, that could lead to something along those lines and we’re going to charge him,” Cheatam said. “But we need more probable cause and more information before we can go that avenue.”