Three incidents at San Francisco Armenian church, school now considered hate crimes

A recent fire at an Armenian church is now one of three incidents levied against the city’s Armenian community over the past two months that police are investigating as hate crimes, San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The San Francisco Police Department’s Arson Task Force is investigating the fire that burned the parish office adjacent to the St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church in Laurel Heights on Sept. 17 as a hate crime.

The other two incidents are tied to the KZV Armenian School in the Parkmerced neighborhood.

On Sept. 19, two days after the fire, police officers heard gunshots outside the school and discovered bullet damage on a sign out front. The school was previously vandalized with hateful graffiti in July.

The series of what appears to be anti-Armenian crimes has been deeply troubling to the Bay Area’s tight-knit Armenian community.

Public officials including Gov. Gavin Newsom, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, who is of Armenian descent herself, have condemned the violence against the community in recent days.

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin called the incident “an outrage” and an act of “cowardly, hateful, criminal conduct.”

The fire last week destroyed Sunday school classrooms, a library, meeting rooms and church offices as flames tore through the building before dawn. No one was injured, but the fire incinerated baptism, marriage and other historical records that community members called irreplaceable.

Police have not taken into custody any suspects in relation to the suspected arson or the two incidents at the KZV Armenian School, SFPD Spokesman Robert Rueca said Wednesday. The department has stepped up security at around the city, performing nighttime patrols at Armenian churches, the school and the Armenian genocide memorial cross at Mt. Davidson Park.

The Armenian Cultural Foundation is offering a $25,000 reward to anyone with information that leads to an arrest and conviction of those involved in the incidents, said foundation board member Abraham Panossian.

Hate crimes against Armenians were reported in difference countries, including the United States, Russia and France, after the the July clashes on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

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