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L.A.-Area Hate Crimes Are Few, but Police Take Them Seriously

AMERICA ATTACKED

September 15, 2001|CAROL CHAMBERS and RICHARD FAUSSET | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

An Antelope Valley convenience store owned by a Syrian American has been shot at twice this week in what detectives believe was retaliation for the East Coast terror attacks, sheriff's officials said Friday.

Murhaf Maida's store on Avenue L in Quartz Hill was hit by two shots Tuesday night and four more Thursday night, officials said.

No one was injured. Several shots missed the store, said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Donald Rubio.

Det. Todd Anderson of the sheriff's hate crimes unit said that, in the area patrolled by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, the shootings at Maida's Dairy Express were the most serious offenses possibly related to Tuesday's attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The Los Angeles Police Department was investigating fewer than a dozen hate incidents related to Tuesday's attacks, and all of the incidents were misdemeanors ranging from e-mail threats to vandalism, Officer Guillermo Campos said.

"It's a relatively small number, considering the size of the city," Campos said. "They're all taken seriously, however."

Maida, who immigrated in 1984 and became a citizen in 1993, said he was filled with anger about the terrorism in New York and Washington.

He has draped an American flag from the store ceiling.

"I'm just as angry as anybody--maybe more, because of where I come from," he said from behind his counter.

"The reason we are in this country is because we ran from violence. We don't need to have that here."

"How do you stop someone from doing that? I'm not Muslim. I don't promote violence. Why would they do this?"

Anderson said, "The guy has not had any trouble before,"

The Tuesday and Thursday shootings at Maida's store occurred just before 9 p.m. Each time the shots were fired from a black, late-model pickup truck, officials said.

The bullets hit walls, a gas pump and window. Workers were in the store both nights.

Detectives have not identified suspects or determined the type of gun used, but said the bullets appeared to have been fired from at least two weapons.

On Friday, customer Jack Crouse, said, "This guy's a nice guy. He doesn't deserve this."

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