Manhattan Beach House Fire Prompts Arson, Hate Crime Investigation

(FOX 11 / CNS) Arson investigators today were combing a fire scene at the Manhattan Beach home of a family whose residents believe they were targeted because they are black.

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The blaze at the front entrance of the home was reported about 2:15 a.m. Wednesday in the 700 block of 11th Street, according to the Manhattan Beach Fire Department.

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 a fire department statement.

A possible motive has not been determined, officials said, but Ron Clinton, who has lived at the house with his wife and three children for about a year, said he fears his family may have been attacked because they are black.

"Someone set a tire there and they used some accelerant to ignite it," Clinton told news media outlets. "All I know is that when I woke up, I woke up to a loud blast."

Clinton said he didn't know of any disagreement or "beef" with anyone that might have led to the fire being set, but his wife, a lawyer who was out of town when the fire was set, told the station that she believes they were targeted in a hate crime.

"We don't know who could have done it, but being that we are the only African American family in that area, it was brought to my front door and it feels like it's personal," Clinton said.

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, Clinton told news media outlets.

"The motive has not been determined and to speculate before the completion of the investigation can be detrimental to the family, the community and the investigation," fire officials said.

"Our fire service professionals are aggressively investigating this very serious matter and will explore all motives."

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.

From Gigi Graciette: 

It was 2:15 Wednesday morning when the Clinton family received a very rude awakening.

Their Manhattan Beach home was on fire.

A fire that was started on purpose.

"I came out to see what was going on and as I turned around I was met by the heat of the flames", said Ronald Clinton.

"The fire was very intense. I could feel the heat of the flames. My first reaction was gather the kids."

Investigators know it was arson because they would later find what appeared to be a tire at the front door. It had been doused in some sort of flammable liquid and then set on fire. While inside Clinton and his three children were sleeping. His wife, an attorney, was out of town on business.

Everyone managed to get out okay but what worries Ronald Clinton is that his family is being targeted.

The pharmacist says a few months ago, drug paraphernalia was left at their door.

And before that it was trash.

Clinton thinks someone is doing this because of the color of their skin.

"This was something that was racially motivated", Clinton says. "I don't have proof. I don't have any type of a motive. But I do have a gut. And I tell you my gut believes that this is racially motivated and it was someone that had the intent to harm, injure or even kill us."

The firebombing of a family in this quiet upscale neighborhood has left many shaken.

Friend and Manhattan Beach resident Michelle Moeller also believes this was a hate crime.

"I get chills", said Michelle. "Who lobs a tire full of gasoline at someone's doorstep at two in the morning? What else could it be? It's completely unacceptable. This community is not about that. Anyone is welcome here. It's disgusting and we don't tolerate that."

Friends and neighbors have set up an online fundraising account to raise money for a reward for information leading to the arrest of the arsonist.

https://fundly.com/m2/fire-bombed-neighbor

And will hold a vigil at six o'clock Friday night in front of Metlox Plaza to show their support for the family.

This as the Clintons consider moving.

"You don't want to see them leave Manhattan Beach, do you?", I asked Moeller.

"No! Absolutely not!", she said emphatically. "They cannot leave! They cannot leave. We need to say 'stay'. If anything that speaks louder than that awful act."

From Hal Eisner:

Ronald Clinton says in the middle of the night Wednesday morning he and his family were awakened by a pair of loud explosions and an inferno at his front door. Says the 47-year-old West LA pharmacist, "The fire was very intense...I could feel the heat from the fire. and, my first reaction was to gather the kids."He grabbed the kids and got them out of harms way. Then he grabbed his fire hose and started to try and put out the flames. 

The fire department says it was not accidental, but deliberate. But, they have not yet called it a hate crime. To Clinton,"This is something that was racially motivated."That, he says is the only conclusion he can come up with because he doesn't have a beef with anyone, his front door isn't easy to get to and his is one of the few African American families in the area.Clinton admits, "I don't have proof. I don't have any type of motive, but I do have a gut. 

My gut tells me this was racially motivated.. that someone wanted to harm, injure or even kill us."Fire Chief Robert Espinosa says his investigators have "Collected all of the physical evidence they can and they've combed the area looking for witnesses, any security information and cameras. And, so far they've come up empty on that."As for Clinton, he wants the culprit found. And, says what happened isn't going to force him from his home.

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