Fires at 2 Asian-owned businesses ruled arson; Restaurant owner plans closure

RIVERSIDE — Two Asian businesses in Riverside have been the targets of at least three different crimes including two attacks that have been ruled as arson.

>>‘We don’t feel safe here;’ Owner to close Riverside restaurant targeted by vandals

And now, the owner of the Vietnamese restaurant, Xuan Vietnamese - Thai Cuisine, plans to close the doors to the restaurant at the end of May.

“Rather leave and find a safer location for us,” Nop Mangmeesub told News Center 7′s Mike Campbell. “Because two times of vandalism and also with everything, it’s overwhelming, we don’t want to take another risk.”

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The restaurant and neighboring grocery store were targets of incidents that all happened within a month of each other earlier this year. Mangmeesub found his delivery truck and the side of his building had been vandalized with spray paint in January in what the Riverside Chamber of Commerce called a hate crime.

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Over the next few weeks, two fires disrupted the business including the last one in February.

Mangmeesub said someone try to improvise a Molotov cocktail in one of the fires, shoving it into the building and causing damage to his kitchen. His landlord, who runs an Asian grocery store on the other side of the building had someone start a severely damaging fire in his building around the same time period.

The grocery store has remained closed.

Riverside police Major Matt Sturgeon said fire investigators ruled the crimes arson and they’re accepting federal help tracking down whoever might be responsible. They have not yet ruled the crimes hate crimes because they want to search the motives of whoever inflicted the damage, Sturgeon said.

“That’s usually a change that comes after the investigation is complete, you establish a link,” he said.

Sturgeon said the department is working with the FBI who has offered help in portions of the investigation.

“We were offered some help with the FBI doing some phone tracing and pinging, stuff like that,” he said.

Mangmeesub said that wile he and his wife will close this Vietnamese restaurant for now, the attacks and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on his business means he needs to regroup. Mangmeesub, who came to the area from Thailand 15 years ago said he doesn’t understand why someone would target him.

“The virus is the enemy right? We’re all in this together, we’re not the enemy of each other,” Mangmeesub said.

No arrests have been made so far in the investigation.