Hundreds poured into the streets of Manhattan Beach, California, on Friday night to support a family whose home was firebombed and who fear they were targeted in a possible hate crime.
Ronald Clinton believes his "gut feeling" that whoever threw a burning tire through the front door of his home in the 700 block of 11th Street around 2:15 a.m. Thursday targeted his family in a hate crime.
"When it happens to one of us, it happens to us all," Clinton said at the vigil before the crowd erupted in cheers.
U.S. & World
Clinton and his wife made it clear they don't blame the community for what happened, but they admitted they thought about leaving Manhattan Beach. That changed after the overwhelming support they now know they have.
"I have to admit, initially, we considered it, but you know, this community is just too amazing for us to let one individual force us to leave," Clinton said.
At a Friday press conference, Clinton reiterated his belief that the firebomb was aimed at his family.
"Just our home. No other home on the block. Just our home," he said.
The fire is not the first time the home has been targeted, he 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 said.
"The fact that we are the only African-American family in this area, the fact that our house specifically, it came to our front door," Clinton said Thursday night. "I'm very angry and I'm a little afraid for my family."
Clinton's wife Malissia agreed with his assessment during a press conference Friday.
"Until I have proof to the contrary, we were targeted because of the color of our skin," she said. "They brought it to our front door, destroyed our house. We have to move out. That's not OK."
Both said they could not think of anyone in their personal or professional lives who would target them. She is a prominent attorney. He is a pharmacist.
"There is nothing that we can come up with to suggest anybody we know in our personal lives," Ronald Clinton said.
Investigators have not yet classified the firebombing as a hate crime, which is defined as a "criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation."
The cause of the fire was determined to be suspicious, authorities said. Investigators have found no witnesses nor security video, said Manhattan Beach Fire Chief Robert Espinosa. Most neighbors said they awoke when they heard the commotion.
"The community has galvanized to show support for the residents of this disturbing incident," read a statement from the Manhattan Beach Police Department.
Neighbors are determined to find who is behind the crime. A crowdfunding effort has been launched on the website Fundly, asking for donations to a reward fund for information leading to an arrest in connection with the case.
The police statement also said investigators have not yet determined the motivation of the fire, but that "all possible motives, including this being a hate crime are being investigated."
Ronald Clinton was able to get his three children and the family pets to safety after they were alerted to the fire by a loud boom and discovering the front entryway was engulfed in flames.
Malissia Clinton was out of town at the time of the fire.
The family is now staying at a nearby motel.
Anyone with information is asked to call Fire Investigator Mike Murrey at 310-345-0467. Anonymous tips can be provided by calling Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS.
Hetty Chang contributed to this report.