Man sprays gasoline on 2 Spanish speakers

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Police in a Denver suburb are looking for a man who doused two customers at a gas station with gasoline after confronting them because they spoke Spanish and “don’t belong here,” the department said in a statement.

The individual allegedly searched for something to light the gasoline with before smashing out the rear window of the victims’ vehicle, taking their keys and fleeing, Aurora police said this week.

Police said they are investigating the July 23 incident as a hate crime. As of Thursday afternoon, no arrests had been made in the case, Sgt. Faith Goodrich said.

Authorities said the incident occurred at 11 p.m. at the Rocket Gas station on Havana Street, a major thoroughfare in the eastern suburb of Denver.

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 his vehicle and used a pump from the station to spray fuel on them, according to statements from victims and witnesses, evidence collected at the scene and security camera footage, Goodrich said.

A store employee, Chris Martinez, told KMGH-TV that he came to work at the same time the subject was leaving “and immediately I could smell gasoline everywhere.”

“I speak Spanish to most clients,” Martinez said. “And for them to feel or see that, for someone to spray gasoline on them just for speaking Spanish is something very, very scary.”

Authorities are looking for a man in his 20s who could be Hispanic or Asian, according to descriptions.

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