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LAPD Is Investigating Buddhist Temple Vandalism Incident As A Hate Crime

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Several large metal lanterns were knocked down during the incident. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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The LAPD has launched a hate crime arson investigation after the Higashi Honganji Buddist Temple in Little Tokyo was vandalized.

The incident happened around 7 p.m. on Thursday. Reverend Noriaki Ito says a man climbed over the temple's fence and set two wooden lantern stands on fire. He then knocked a pair of large metal lanterns off their stands, and threw a rock that shattered a floor-to-ceiling glass panel at the entrance.

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Higashi Honganji Temple after the incident. You can see the boarded up glass on the entrance. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Reverend Ito told us that security cameras aimed at the temple caught the man on tape. He appears to be white and about 30 years old. He was wearing a black baseball cap, yellow shirt and black shorts at the time of the incident, according to LAPD.

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There's been a rise in hate crimes aimed at Asian Americans since the start of the pandemic, and Reverend Ito suspects that's at play here:

"We're happy that he wasn't able to get inside into our sanctuary where we have articles from Japan that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. And so we're fortunate that it all stopped at the exterior of the building."

Reverend Ito says the temple had another incident recently where two people got onto the grounds and injured a security guard who tried to escort them off the property.

The Higashi Honganji Temple was originally founded in Little Tokyo in 1904. The current temple was built in 1976. It's is actually the first Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles.

California just approved funding to the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate,which has an online tool for community members to report hate crimes against Asian Americans. The organization is tracking that data.

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