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Controversial sign may have led to car arson

1-8-2008 Virginia:

Norfolk fire investigators believe a fire caught on home video is the work of an arsonist. Those living in the neighborhood where the car was set on fire wonder if a controversial sign led to the car being torched.

We first told you about the controversial sign last week. It was a sign reading: "No sex offenders and no illegals." The sign was put up in the front of a home on Sheppard Avenue in Norfolk, and the landlord that put it there says he had every right to post it.

Early Monday morning, neighbors grabbed their video cameras to capture the glow coming from a car on fire.

"I don't know if they're malicious," said Norfolk's, Minton Owens. "I don't know if they just want to prove a point."

Minton Owens, the landlord who posted the sign, heard the explosion and ran to his window. The car's now gone, but shattered glass and other parts still remain where the car once stood.

"You can see it through the windows," added Minton. "People were banging on the door and then my phone started ringing, all the neighbors were saying get out the house."

Owens says the car was a friend's. He believes the fire could've been started because of the sign he posted.

"I wouldn't say that it doesn't surprise me," said Owens. "I'm surprised that people would take it this far. That they are that concerned about a sign."

The sign sits in front of the house next door - a house Owens owns and rents, but not to everyone.

"I don't think it's worth killing somebody over," added Owens. "I don't think it's worth getting upset over."

Owens admits there are some in the neighborhood who don't like the sign and want it gone. It's now chained to the porch, because it keeps getting stolen. But even with the fire being felt so close to home he's not backing down.

"If they burn the house, I'll build another house," said Owens. "If they burn the car, I'll buy another car. My position is not going to change. I'm not going to be scared or intimidated by people who want to run around burning up the place."

Owens tells he has found someone to rent the home. They should move in on January 15. Now that the home is rented, Owens says he'll take the sign down. ..more.. by Jason Marks

Questionable sign in Norfolk

1-4-2008 Virginia:

It's a hot button issue in local and national politics: illegal immigration.

Now in a Norfolk neighborhood, a for rent sign reads: "No sex offenders and no illegals".

The home is rented by its owner Minton Owens who's now handcuffed and chained the sign to the porch because it's the third time he's put one up.

"It's got handcuffs and chains on it. That's no accident."

But his former renter, who asked not to be identified and found by said, "'It could be that I'm Hispanic."

This former renter showed us one of the signs. She admits taking it from the yard while in the process of moving out.

"I found it offensive. I'm not a sex offender and I'm not an illegal. I have my papers...I am in the country legally...I am not an illegal immigrant...It's because I'm Hispanic."

Owens responds, "I'm a landlord in Virginia. If you check the statutes, I have a right to have a picture ID or photo ID where I can track you. How can I complain about you if you tear up the property and I can't find you?"

HUD Federal Law says landlords can discriminate based solely on a person's citizenship status. HUD states that the Act, "does not prohibit discrimination based solely on a person's citizenship status."

Ownes' former renter says she's legal and was bullied to leave for reasons that had nothing to do with citizenship, but rather lawn maintenance.

Owens thought it odd that she would talk to, but not reveal her identity. What was she afraid of?

Both sides will appear in a Norfolk Court January 31 to litigate the issues.
..more.. by Andy Fox

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