LA Police Probe Fire, Vandalism At Japanese Buddhist Temple

One of a pair of metal lanterns knocked down at the entrance of the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple, is seen in Los Angeles Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021.(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities are investigating vandalism and fire at a Buddhist temple in the Little Tokyo section of downtown Los Angeles.

Surveillance video caught a man jumping the security fences at the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple on Thursday night, smashing a 12-foot-high glass window with a rock, yanking a pair of metallic lanterns off their concrete bases and lighting two wooden lantern stands on fire, the temple's head priest told the Los Angeles Times.

“Your first feelings are those of disappointment and sadness to see what happened,” said the Rev. Noriaki Ito. “I don’t know the motives, but it looks like we were targeted. The only relief I find is that no one was hurt.”

The incident comes amid a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. The advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate said it tracked 245 reports of coronavirus-related discrimination against people of Asian descent in Los Angeles County from March through December last year. They included verbal harassment, physical assaults, or refusal of service at the business.

Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Stacy Spell said it was too early to label Thursday’s vandalism a hate crime because the investigation is in the early stages.

Ito said the vandalism is part of a troubling pattern of security breaches at the 1 1/2-acre sanctuary during the last two weeks.

They said that on Feb. 18, a couple trespassed onto the property and, when told to leave by a security guard, assaulted the man, who has since quit.

On Tuesday, another unidentified person snuck onto the property as a truck was making a delivery and stole an unattended iPhone from a temple gardener.

“This is going to lead to changes where we’re going to have 24-hour security, at least during the weekdays,” said Ito, who has been with the temple since its founding. “We’ve been here 45 years and this has never happened.”

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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.