Blaze Started by Robbers Destroys Santa Ana Shops

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Four men set a Vietnamese cafe on fire early Friday after forcing 11 people into the restrooms and robbing them of cash and jewelry, police and fire officials said.

The 12:08 a.m. blaze destroyed the Cafe L'Amour and Angles Dry Cleaners in the strip mall at 2525 W. 17th St. and damaged several other businesses.

Police Sgt. Bob Clark said four men entered the cafe about 11:30 p.m. Thursday, one of them brandishing a gun. They forced the employees and customers into the two restrooms and robbed them, Clark said.

They also took money from the cafe safe, stole a karaoke machine and set the business on fire as they fled. Clark said investigators believe the men spread some type of fire accelerant at the back of the store.

The victims escaped unharmed.

The Police Department's Asian Pacific Task Force is working the case, which involved Vietnamese victims and a Vietnamese business, Clark said.

The fire, which caused an estimated $100,000 in damage, took 32 firefighters 42 minutes to control, said Fire Department spokesman Eric Evans.

Along with the Cafe L'Amour, the Angles Dry Cleaners was destroyed. A restaurant and video store also suffered damage, and other neighboring businesses may have received attic damage, Evans said.

"Investigators have confirmed that arson was the cause," Evans said.

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