Businesses in SF victims of arson, possibly 'racially motivated' crime spree

Stunningly clear surveillance video shows a man enter one of the businesses and brazenly hold up a lighter to some paper boxes.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Minority business owners are finally speaking out after a string of crimes, including a brazen arson in San Francisco's Taraval neighborhood.

Albert Wong, a longtime business owner in the neighborhood and president of the Taraval Merchant's Association, walked through what's left of Dragon Printing, a family-owned printing shop that opened nearly 35 years ago.

RELATED: Activists start movement to end hate crimes, violence against Asian Americans

"They really went after the heart of the business. They said, 'we don't want you here anymore,'" Wong said, shaking his head as he stared at the back room which is completely charred. "It's like burning down Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory...why?"

Stunningly clear surveillance video from Sept. 9 shows a man enter the building and brazenly hold up a lighter to some paper boxes.

Because the business owners declined to be on camera, Wong says he wanted to speak out, and bring light not only to this incident, but to three other break-ins that happened just one day later at nearby Mr. Bread, Antigua Coffee and Sugar and Water cafe.

All the businesses are owned by people of color.

"I can't help but think this was racially motivated," says Wong.

VIDEO: Elderly Asian man attacked, humiliated while collecting cans in San Francisco neighborhood
EMBED More News Videos

Disturbing video shows an elderly man collecting cans in San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood before being assaulted and reduced to tears.

ABC7 News anchor Dion Lim wanted to tell the story weeks earlier, but numerous people involved at each business declined to go on camera or give interviews in fear of retaliation, or citing cultural reasons. But while talking with Wong, she discovered another business that had been targeted just days ago and the owner wanted to talk.

Simon Kuang, owner of Foam Tea House just a few minutes down the street from Dragon Printing, also in Taraval, points to a surveillance video where you can see a car drive by the shop and suddenly the front window shatters.

The repair will cost Kuang, who is already hurting for business during the pandemic, nearly $400. He's now urging his fellow Asian-American business owners to speak out, too.

RELATED: Asian couple becomes targets of a racist rant in Milpitas

"If you're quiet, then people don't know... I'm sure a lot of people want to help but no one stands up it's not going to help the community at all."

After meeting with community leaders and SFPD, Wong is now recommending to the roughly 400 businesses in his district to take precautions, such as making sure insurance policies cover these crimes and understanding that having cameras isn't enough.

"Clean your lenses so they're pointing the right direction! These little things matter!" he exclaims.

As Dragon Printing tries to find a way to rebuild and replace hundreds of thousands of dollars in damaged equipment, a GoFundMe has been set up for the shop as well as a group fundraising page for Mr. Bread, Antigua and Sugar and Water Cafe.

Wong makes one last plea to business owners.

"If you're silent, nobody is going to help you. If it's an attack on one of us, it's all of us."

WATCH:Virtual town hall about COVID-19 impact on Asian American community
EMBED More News Videos

ABC7 is confronting hate crimes against Asian Americans during the novel coronavirus pandemic with an interactive town hall that featured a panel of expert contributors amid real-time audience interaction.

Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.