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After Repeated Unexplained Car Fires, Armed Robbery Outside West Pullman Building, Many Think Issue Has To Do With Gangs, Race

CHICAGO (CBS) -- After unexplained car fires in the back of a building and bullets flying in the front, a West Pullman neighborhood landlord and his tenants have a simple request – make it stop.

As CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported, the eight-unit apartment building sits on Kensington Avenue. Since a new owner purchased it last fall the scene of charred vehicles out back keep playing out.

"They made me lose my car. I couldn't get to work," said Tarlece Beard.

Beard lived in the building for one month. Her car was the first to catch on fire while parked in December, and now she has moved elsewhere.

"That's why I left," Beard said. "I feared for me life."

Someone actually set her car on fire twice.

The first time, Beard said: "It didn't burn fully. It just burned the interior and the back seats."

Yet days later, they finished the job. She believes she was targeted by a gang for one reason.

"The gangs going on around there, they don't like Blacks around," Beard said.

Property owner Michael Taylor said: "I didn't know whether it was race-related. I didn't think that at all. I'm thinking it was something personal."

But now, Taylor insists the incident was not isolated.

"It's just a small group of people who are trying to send a message," Taylor said.

Exactly what the message is isn't clear. But different tenants keep waking up to find their cars torched. Two more vehicles were damaged over the weekend.

Meanwhile, Taylor insists a gang is to blame after a recent armed robbery.

"Robbing a young man and asking him what his gang affiliation was, and some of the words that I was told was being exchanged, 'You guys not welcome here,' and all that kind of thing," Taylor said, "and then the next day, two more cars are set on fire."

That, Taylor said, led him to conclude it was likely "there's some racial tensions here."

Police are investigating the robbery and shooting, but will not say if the torched cars are connected.

Meanwhile, fear is setting in.

"The safety of my tenants must be paramount," Taylor said.

Chicago Police said late Wednesday they have no reason to believe anyone intentionally set the cars on fire. Yet Taylor said it is beyond a coincidence that cars only in his lot keep going up in smoke.

He has been working on getting security cameras linked directly to the CPD's camera initiative.

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