MANCHESTER, NH – Police are investigating a fire that destroyed a local convenience store, ruled arson yesterday by Manchester Fire investigators – and now, being investigated by police as a burglary and hate crime.
“When somebody spray-paints those kinds of things on the wall, it causes us some concerns, so yes, I guess you could say that it appears to be a hate crime,” said Manchester Police Capt. Ryan Grant on Tuesday.
The store owner, Junior Rodriguez, of Methuen, Mass., is of Hispanic descent, confirmed Grant. According to city records, Rodriguez established the business with the State of NH in July of 2015.
Grant said Rodriguez has requested the media respect his privacy following the devastating loss of his business.
On February 6, 2017, at approximately 1:30 a.m., Manchester Police responded to Rodriguez Market and Restaurant, at 519 Amory St., for a reported building fire. On arrival fire crews discovered a fire inside the business which was quickly brought under control by the Manchester Fire Department.
An initial on-scene investigation by Manchester Fire Marshal John Reese deemed the fire suspicious and additional investigative resources from the Manchester Police Department and the State Fire Marshal’s Office were requested.
Further investigation confirmed the fire was arson. In addition, it appears the business was also burglarized. Investigators discovered graffiti that had been spray-painted on an interior wall of the business. The graffiti had racial overtones and included the letters “KKK.” The business owner had previously reported similar graffiti spray painted on an exterior wall of the business on June 7, 2016 but it is uncertain at this time whether the two incidents are related, police said.
“We believe they broke in with intent to commit theft and mischief,” Grant said. “Anyone who might have information, we urge them to contact us.”
You can reach Manchestet Police at 603-668-8711. Anonymous tips for cash rewards can be made through Manchester Crimeline online, or at 603-624-4040. Those with information can also contact the Manchester Fire Department Fire Marshal’s Office at (603) 669-2256 or the State Fire Marshal’s Office at (603) 223-4289.