AURORA, Colo. (AP) — Police in suburban Denver say they’re looking for a man who doused two customers with gasoline at a fueling station after confronting them because they were speaking Spanish and “don’t belong here,” according to a department statement.
The man allegedly looked for something to ignite the gasoline before smashing the rear window of the victims’ vehicle, taking the keys to their car and leaving, Aurora police said this week.
Police said they were investigating the July 23 incident as a hate crime. No arrest had been made by late Thursday, said police Sgt. Faith Goodrich.
Authorities said the incident happened at 11 p.m. at the Rocket Gas Station on Havana Street, a main thoroughfare in the eastern Denver suburb.
Inside the station store, the man confronted the victims after hearing them speak Spanish and “told them they don’t belong here,” department officials said. He allegedly followed them to their car and used a station pump to douse them with gasoline, according to statements from the victims and witnesses, evidence collected at the scene and surveillance video, Goodrich said.
A store employee, Chris Martinez, told KMGH-TV he arrived for work just as the man was leaving “and right away I could smell gas everywhere.”
“I speak Spanish to most of the customers,” Martinez said. “And for them to feel or see that, you know, someone got poured gas on them just for speaking Spanish is very, very frightening, you know?”
Authorities were looking for a man in his 20s, described as either Hispanic or Asian.