- The Washington Times - Monday, July 18, 2016

An unoccupied police cruiser was firebombed outside a Florida mosque Sunday morning and a note supporting the Black Lives Matter movement was found at the scene, police said.

Someone likely used a Molotov cocktail to destroy the marked Daytona Beach police car about 2 a.m outside the Islamic Center at 347 S. Keech St., Police Chief Mike Chitwood said. Police arrived on the scene to find the vehicle completely engulfed in flames, The Associated Press reported.

“Black Lives Matter A. Sterling P. Castile [expletive] the police!!!” read a note left at the scene, police said.

The police car was being used as a “ghost car” at the mosque as a way to deter anti-Muslim crime following the terrorist attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The firebombing caused more than $20,000 in damage to the vehicle, Chief Chitwood said. No one was injured.

“We were in bed and I heard a ‘boom’ noise,” one unnamed resident told The Daytona Beach News-Journal. “It sounded like a window being broken and I thought it could be someone trying to break into my boyfriend’s car. So I looked out the window and didn’t see anyone near his car then I looked left and saw the police car was on fire.

“The police car has been parked there since the Orlando shootings,” the resident said. “They move it every now and then but it’s always empty. My boyfriend called 911 and it took so long before they got there that by the time they did the entire car was covered in fire. It took a bit to get the fire out.”

The firebombing comes amid rising tension nationwide following the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota. Their deaths sparked nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, including in Dallas, where a black gunman killed five police officers before he was killed by a police robot carrying a bomb.

Sunday morning, just hours after the Daytona police cruiser was burned, another black gunman opened fire on law enforcement in Baton Rouge, killing three officers and wounding three.

Chief Chitwood said he had not yet concluded that Sunday’s firebombing was the work of Black Lives Matter activists. There are currently no suspects or persons of interests, but detectives are reviewing surveillance video in the area, The News-Journal reported.

“I really do believe in my heart of hearts that we have a really great rapport with our community overall,” Chief Chitwood said. “They know that if there’s a problem, they can come and talk to us. But there is a radical, small percentage that I think is trying to drive a wedge between all of us.

“If you notice what’s going on in America today, it’s like they’re taking a page out of [the Islamic State],” he said. “Find the disenfranchised folks that don’t want to fix things the right way, and have them be fanatical in their attacks. And it’s sad. Certainly not the world I want my grandkids to grow up in.”

Chief Chitwood said the suspects would face arson charges as well as damage to a police vehicle, The News-Journal reported.

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