A man approached a West Hills home Saturday night and appeared to set a displayed U.S. flag on fire, sparking a small blaze and suspicion that the suspect was motivated by hate.
The incident was caught on a home surveillance system. Officials have ruled the incident an arson — meaning the fire was intentionally set — and continue to investigate whether it was a possible hate crime, according to a press release from the Los Angeles Police Department. Officer Drake Madison, an agency spokesperson, said it wasn't clear what prompted the hate crime investigation, but noted that the report mentioned the American flag and Jewish symbols outside the home.
The case remains under investigation, without any suspects identified or arrested, Madison said. Officials asked for help identifying the suspect, whom detectives described as a man about 5 feet 10 inches tall, and weighing about 165 pounds.
“I’m scared, I’m really scared," said Hadas, a mother of four, who lives in the home. She requested that her full name not be published out of concern for her safety and that of her family.
She said a portion of her garage and roof were damaged in the small fire before someone driving by stopped at the sight of the flames and put out the fire with a hose.
Hadas said no one in her family was home at the time of the fire and no one was injured.
“Thank God for that," Hadas said.
She said she was headed home with her children Saturday evening when she got a notification from their surveillance system that someone was in their front yard.
She couldn't immediately see anyone in the surveillance camera's shot, but noticed what appeared to be flames in the front yard. She called 911 and had her daughter call a neighbor.
Before firefighters or her neighbor arrived, the passerby had responded to the flames, she said. Later, police officers came by.
The fire started about 8 p.m. Saturday, Madison said.
Hadas doesn't know why someone would set the flag on fire, but said she worries it may have to do with their Jewish faith, noting her family has a large mezuza — an enclosed scroll with Hebrew scripture that many Jews place on doorposts — outside their front door.
Antisemitic incidents were already on the rise in the U.S. before the Israel-Hamas war broke out earlier this month — which has since prompted fears about increased violence against both Jewish and Palestinian people. Officials say it's still too soon to say for certain if anti-Jewish or anti-Muslim crimes have increased since the war began.
Hadas also noted that their house was the only one in the neighborhood displaying a U.S. flag — something her neighbors are now determined to change.
"All the neighbors ordered one," Hadas said. "All of us are going to put [out] an American flag."
Police asked anyone with information to call LAPD's Major Crimes Division at (213) 486-7260.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.