LA police probe fire, vandalism at Japanese temple

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities are investigating a vandalism and fire at a Buddhist temple in the Little Tokyo section of downtown Los Angeles (LA).

Surveillance video caught a man jumping the security fences at the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple on Thursday night, smashing a 12-foot-high glass window with a rock, yanking a pair of metallic lanterns off their concrete bases and lighting two wooden lantern stands on fire, the temple’s head priest told the Los Angeles Times.

“Your first feelings are those of disappointment and sadness to see what happened,” said the Reverend Noriaki Ito. “I don’t know the motives, but it looks like we were targetted. The only relief I find is that no one was hurt.”

The incident comes amid a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. The advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate said it tracked  245 reports of coronavirus-related discrimination against people of Asian descent in LA County from March through December last year.

They included verbal harassment, physical assaults or refusal of service at business. Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Stacy Spell said it was too early to label Thursday’s vandalism a hate crime because the investigation is in the early stages.

Ito said the vandalism is part of a troubling pattern of security breaches at the one and a half-acre sanctuary during the last two weeks. They said that on February 18, a couple trespassed onto the property and, when told to leave by a security guard, assaulted the man, who has since quit.

One of a pair of metal lanterns knocked down at the entrance of the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple. PHOTO: AP