Hundreds gathered at a candlelight vigil and raised $22,000 for an award to catch the person who set fire to the home of a black family.
Hundreds of people held a vigil tonight in support of a black family whose Manhattan Beach home was apparently targeted by an arsonist.
The massive show of support came as arson investigators sought the public’s help to find whoever was responsible for setting the blaze, which was set about 2:15 a.m. at the front entrance of the home in the 700 block of 11th Street, according to the Manhattan Beach Fire Department.
“The fire from all indications appears to have been purposely set on the front porch …,” according to a Manhattan Beach Police Department statement. “The motivation for this crime has not been determined. However, all possible motives, including this being a hate crime, are being investigated. We have not ruled out any possibility.”
Family members were home at the time, and got out safely after being alerted by their dog and smoke detectors, officials said.
“The fire was extinguished and found to be confined to the front entrance, with significant smoke damage to the second and third floor. The cause of the fire is suspicious in nature,” according to the fire department.
Ron Clinton, who has lived in the house with his wife and three children, said he fears his family may have been targeted because they are black, explaining that someone set the fire, using an accelerant, and they are the only black family in the area.
Clinton said he didn’t know of any disagreement or “beef” with anyone who might have resorted to arson, but his wife, a lawyer who was out of town when the fire was set, believes they were targeted in a hate crime.
“Until I have proof to the contrary, we were targeted because of the color of our skin,” Malissia Clinton told reporters. “We are African- Americans. We’ve been African-Americans all our lives, living in this country and we are allowed to reach conclusions based on our experience. That is my entitlement.
“What I can say is that the community has rallied behind us and we think it’s isolated. We don’t think the community is racist.”
Drug paraphernalia was placed at the home’s front door a few months ago and at other times trash and other large items have been dumped at the house, Ron Clinton said.
The investigation was being conducted by the Manhattan Beach police and fire departments, and state and federal authorities have been notified and stand ready to assist, police said.
“The community has galvanized to show support for the residents of this disturbing incident,” the police statement said.
A 6 p.m. community rally staged tonight near the fire scene drew about 700 people, according to reports from the scene and more than $22,000 has been pledged through the fundraising site Fundly.com for a reward in the case or a private investigator of whoever started the fire is not identified.
One of the largest donations was made by Los Angeles Lakers President Jeanie Buss, according to a listing of donors on the site.
Anyone with information that could assist the investigation was urged to contact Fire Investigator Mike Murrey at (310) 345-0467. Anonymous tips can be provided by calling Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.