BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - The Beverly Hills Police Department is investigating a hate crime after a Turkish restaurant was vandalized.
Police say on Wednesday, November 4, around 8:30 p.m. a group of men walked into a restaurant on South Beverly Drive and began destroying property.
Police say the suspects physically attacked the employees inside the restaurant and later in the alley outside of the restaurant.
“I thought they were going to kill me…” says the owner of the restaurant.
Surveillance video from the restaurant shows a group of about 8 men running into the place, as the owners flee out the back, they start throwing chairs around, and violently trashing the small eatery that has been at that location for almost ten years.
Beverly Hills Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime. The owners say they have been getting threats over the phone, ever since fighting began between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Turkey has backed Azerbaijan in its military fight over the region of Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh).
So far, the large protests organized by the local Armenian community have been very peaceful, but to authorities this escalation is reminiscent of the bloody explosion of tension in the late 70’s, in Southern California.
That’s when Bahadir Tamir, a visiting Turkish diplomat and the Turkish Consul General from Los Angeles, Mehmet Baydar, were both assassinated in Santa Barbara.
A 77-year-old identified as Gourgen Yanikian, shot the two men, explaining later to authorities that he was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide. 1.5 million Armenians were killed in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.
Neither of the slain officials had been alive during that time but Tamir had come to view the Turkish officials as symbols of decades of injustice.
Even today, the events are remembered by Armenians all over the world, including Southern California, which is home to the largest population of Armenians outside of the country of Armenia.
Every time tensions between Turkey and Armenia explode overseas, it echoes into the local populations, with marches and occasional incidents.
No one was injured in the Istanbul restaurant incident, but investigators are taking it very seriously, and asking anyone with information to pass on tips, even anonymously,
Beverly Hills PD can be reached at 310-285-2125.