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NC hate crime? Man accused of burning Indian grocery, leaving racist note

Curtis Dwight Flournoy, 32, is charged with burning a building of trade, malicious damage by use of an incendiary material, felony breaking and entering, ethnic intimidation and anonymous or threatening letters. (Photo credit: Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WLOS) - Police arrested a man who is accused of arson, ethnic intimidation, and committing a hate crime at Central Market in Charlotte on Thursday.

Curtis Dwight Flournoy, 32, is charged with burning a building of trade, malicious damage by use of an incendiary material, felony breaking and entering, ethnic intimidation, and anonymous or threatening letters.

Police searched for the man seen in surveillance video leaving a racist note, breaking a window at the business, and then setting a fire. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said Friday that they're working with federal authorities to investigate the incident as a hate crime.

Officers responded Thursday night to the Central Market on Albemarle Road after receiving a report of a fire at the building. The fire was under control by the time firefighters and police arrived, but officers noticed one of the door’s window panes had been smashed.

A note was left at the scene near the door, according to police. The writer of the note said he or she did not want any refugee business owners in the area, and threatened to torture the owner if the owner did not leave and go back to where he came from, police said.

The person signed the letter, “White America.”

The owner of the store is a refugee from Bhutan, according to officials.

Kamal Dhimal, the owner of the Central Market, said his heart sank when he got to the store and saw the note.

"There is no word to express how I am feeling," Dhimal said.

The Indian and Nepali market has been a staple in east Charlotte for years, but Dhimal said it doesn't feel like home after Thursday night's incident. "It makes me scared for the refugee and immigration," Dhimal said.

But he said he is not deterred by the hatred, and his store's doors are open to everyone.

"We are stronger, if they are stronger, they will come in the daytime," Dhimal said

Surveillance video showed a black man who is about 5 feet, 8 inches tall, weighing 200 pounds, with a short Afro and a goatee, according to officers.

A search of Flournoy's prior arrest record shows arrests for assault on a government official or employee, injury to real property, possession of drug paraphernalia, felony marijuana possession, possession of marijuana with intent to sell or distribute, and felony probation violation.

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