Residents in Rossmoor are torn over whether one of their own was the victim of a prank or a hate crime this month.
Investigators are still searching for the culprit behind the acid bombs left on a Rossmoor woman’s lawn and driveway earlier this month. Even as authorities continue to investigate, the incident has ignited a debate in the community about whether it is fair to consider the incident a potential hate crime.
On Dec. 2, a Rossmoor woman called law enforcement shortly after 7 a.m. to report she had found the acid bombs – small explosives made from household chemicals -- near the driveway of her residence the 3000 block of Mainway Drive. The Orange County Human Relations, a nonprofit devoted to eradicating hate crime in Orange County, announced that it was considering the possibility that the incident was a hate crime because the victim is an African-American who felt the incident may have been racially motivated.
On Dec. 16, the Rossmoor Homeowners Association sent out an email to its members responding to the allegations.
“While this matter is still under investigation, any inference that Rossmoor is not a welcoming community to all ethnic and racial groups is simply wrong,” said RHA president Gary Stewart in the letter. “It should go without saying that Rossmoor is a diverse community, attracting all kinds of people who value its quality of life.”
The letter also criticized the response of the Rossmoor Predator Management team, which -- along with alerting its newsletter readers that the incident had taken place -- sent out an email to members of the media indicating that some deputies were investigating “the matter as a possible hate crime due to the ethnicity of this family.”
“Unlike some others who were eager to talk to the media about the incident,” Stewart wrote,” the RHA believed the best course was to let law enforcement professionals do their jobs and to not go around shooting from the hip with unverified information.”
Click the 1st pdf below the photo to read the full letter.
The Orange County Human Relations commission believed it was a hate crime, and the Rossmoor Predator Management Team was not out of line to report that, said Dave Lara, the team’s founder.
“We have not engaged in criticizing the RHA,” Lara wrote in the letter.” “Rather, we submitted a request to the RHA as an agenda item to discuss issuing a reward for the Rossmoor Acid Bomber. We also asked the RHA as a community representative, to contact the victim and discuss what assistance could be offered.”
“I think obviously the homeowners association is very sensitive, and they want to put Rossmoor in the good light,” Lara said. “There’s no feud. They’re criticizing us. That’s OK.”
After the mass email from the association, the Predator Management Team asked the home owners association to send out its response to the criticism.
The association declined, and the Lara’s put their letter on the Rossmoor Predator Management Team’s home page.
Click the second pdf below the photo to read the Lara’s response letter.
Lara said that he and his wife decided they don’t want to spend time arguing whether it’s a hate crime or not. He said they will wait for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to catch a suspect, and they want to help anyway they can.
However, he added, “We believe, along with Orange County Human Relations, that obviously there are hate crimes in Orange County, and people don't want to address it.”
Orange County Sheriff’s Department Spokesman Jim Amormino said there was still no evidence that bombs were a hate crime.
Deputies continue to look for finger prints and interview neighbors “but they haven’t come up with a lot,” he said.
On Dec. 2, a Rossmoor woman called law enforcement shortly after 7 a.m. to report she had found the acid bombs – small explosives made from household chemicals -- near the driveway of her residence the 3000 block of Mainway Drive.
Amormino said one of the items exploded while the woman was on the phone with authorities. When authorities arrived, the other items on the property had not exploded, and they were later disabled by a bomb squad.
According to Amormino, acid bombs are “easily made and fairly common, but extremely dangerous.”
“We take it very seriously,” Amormino said, adding that many times “it’s youngsters” who make them because the explosion is visually impressive.
One of the bombs was found in a tree in a park across the street from the victim's home, Amormino said. The devices may have been part of a prank, he said.
“We don’t have any suspects,” Amormino added.
Amormino said they checked local security camera footage on nearby homes, but the cameras didn’t record any evidence– mostly, he said because the cameras weren’t pointing at the home at the time of the incident.
"Our investigation is ongoing and it will really depend on the outcome of the investigation if we have something pertinent (to announce).” Amormino said. “We’re doing the same things we do always … seeking witnesses, interviewing witnesses, looking at any potential leads or evidence, all the normal investigatory techniques.”