Fires at Riverside Asian market that family called ‘domestic terrorism’ ruled arson

FILE
Caption
FILE

Fires at two Asian-American businesses earlier this year in Riverside have been ruled arsons, according to the Riverside Police Department.

Maj. Matthew Sturgeon of the Riverside Police Department said the agency had no suspects at this time.

In January and February, police were called twice to the building at 4770 Airway Road, which houses International Foods market and Thai restaurant, Xuan Vietnamese-Thai Cuisine.

In January, the properties were damaged when graffiti was found outside the building and there was a smell of gasoline inside. TA police report said a maintenance worker discovered a fire in the range hood of the restaurant that damaged the hood.

Riverside Fire Chief Daniel Stitzel said crews who responded Feb. 25 found a small fire between the ceiling and the roof of the building. The fire caused damage to wood trusses and the insulation, he said.

A police report said the owner of International Foods, Ban Van Mai, showed police video of two men climbing a ladder on the side of the building at around 2 a.m. during the January fire to get closer to a security camera and cover it with black spray paint.

His daughter, Thu Mai, said in January that her family was targeted because they are Asian-American. She said her family has complete faith in the police to do their jobs and that the people who vandalized the building would be brought to justice. She called the incident “domestic terrorism,” because the people who committed the crime were trying to cause bodily harm.

She said her family had been in that location for at least 25 years and felt they were part of the community. Her family will not be intimidated, she said.

“What they’re doing is complete cowardice,” she said. “Their intention is trying to scare us and that’s not happening.”

Because of the two arson fires, the owners of the Thai restaurant, Noppadol Mangmeesub and his wife, Kanokwan, are planning to close Xuan Vietnamese-Thai Cuisine later this month.

Noppadol Mangmeesub said he figured that the fires were arson before the official ruling.

“I didn’t care much about it because I thought I’m going to close anyways,” Noppadol Mangmeesub said of the official ruling.

Noppadol Mangmeesub said he does not have plans for what comes next. He doesn’t have the money to open a new restaurant right now, he said.

He said he had been getting checks in envelopes he didn’t ask for, and wanted to thank those people, but said he has no plans right now to do a GoFundMe or anything similar.

Noppadol Mangmeesub said he doesn’t have a way to thank the people who have been sending him money, but appreciates they noticed his family having a hard time and wanted to help.

He added he is worried that one day he’ll wake up and the whole building will be gone if he stays open.

“So I think I’m making the right decision that I’m leaving,” Mangmeesub said.

Contact Eileen McClory at 937-694-2016 or eileen.mcclory@coxinc.com.