LOS ANGELES >> Authorities are investigating the vandalism and burning of a Buddhist temple in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles.
Surveillance video captured a man jumping the security gates at Higashi Honganji Buddhist temple on Thursday evening, smashing a 12-foot-high glass window with a stone, ripping a pair of metal lanterns from their concrete bases and lighting two lanterns wood on fire, the temple’s chief priest told the Los Angeles Times.
“Your first feelings are of disappointment and sadness to see what has happened,” said Rev. Noriaki Ito. “I don’t know the motives, but it looks like we’ve been targeted. The only relief I find is that no one was hurt.
The incident comes amid an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans. 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 of last year. They included verbal harassment, physical assault, or denial of service in a business.
Los Angeles Police Department captain Stacy Spell said it was too early to characterize Thursday’s vandalism as a hate crime as the investigation was still in its infancy.
Ito said the vandalism was part of a troubling pattern of security breaches at the 1 1/2 acre sanctuary over the past two weeks.
They said that on February 18, a couple entered the property and, when a security guard told them to leave, assaulted the man, who has since resigned.
Another unidentified person sneaked onto the property on Tuesday as a truck made a delivery and stole an unattended iPhone from a temple gardener.
“This is going to lead to changes where we are going to have 24 hour security, at least on weekdays,” said Ito, who has worked with the temple since its founding. “We have been here for 45 years and it has never happened.”