Conventions are a place to share like-minded ideals. We go to the same event to have fun and help each other leave behind the norm for a weekend. It’s a place where most attending will lend their hand out to help.
There are also the typical con-goers who just go to party, and that’s their own fun. Meeting many of these people has been a joy over the years.
Though sadly, there are people whose actions ruin the experience. These people are not your typical event-goer. With this in mind, it hurts to have witnessed an incident unfold during a convention, Anime Los Angeles.
After this article, there will be a link for those who want to offer their own support. This incident should be addressed. It’s also important to note that something like this could happen anywhere, it’s not exclusive to the convention scene. It can also stem from the individual involved, rather than the community as a whole. And yet the community should work to maintain a welcoming and fun atmosphere, and come together in times of crisis.
The Incident in a Hotel Parking Lot
Last Sunday morning, at just before 2 a.m., there was a fire that happened in the parking lot of one of the hotels where Anime Los Angeles attendees were staying at.
At the time, I was walking to one of the hotels to visit my friends in their room. Then suddenly, I see people running out. They said there was a car that exploded in the parking lot of a hotel, and they had seen the smoke. I turned and saw it as well. So, we ran over quickly, and saw the firefighters finish up extinguishing the flames.
The crime was caught on surveillance video:
The fire was a deliberate and disgusting crime. Kotaku reports that it was committed by an obsessed stalker.
Since then, a suspect has been caught. Anime News Network identified the suspect as Matthew Masumi Toyotome. According to Kotaku, the suspect stalked and targeted cosplayer Julia Moreno Jenkins, setting fire to her car, which spread to other vehicles in the hotel parking lot. Jenkins and her husband were able to identify her stalker, and he was arrested afterward.
The Mercury News reports that Jenkins and Toyotome had belonged to the same Power Rangers cosplay group, and that “Toyotome made unwanted advances toward her, which led to her ending the friendship and blocking him from her social media accounts.” Jenkins had no idea that Toyotome would be at Anime Los Angeles until she saw him there, and then learned he had set her car on fire.
There is a GoFundMe campaign for the main victim and target of the fire, Jenkins. Another victim set up a PayPal donation pool. No confirmation yet as to how the other victims are coping. Though there is at least one person affected who has to specifically travel long distances in his car for work, just to earn a living.
What has come of this?
While the community is one of the most welcoming and open, there has been a lot of talk, with some people treating the fire as a punchline to a joke, etc. People will cope in their own way, or act incredibly callous—but nothing takes away from the fact that this tragedy happened.
Aside from that and the donation pools, people are genuinely there to help. One of the greatest people I’ve known was a witness, and he was there to help get people away from possible danger. We all come together as a community to help each other, and nothing will ever change that.
The Community—There is no Place I Would Rather Be
This community is still as welcoming as ever. Everyone helps each other. Starting from when you take your first step onto the convention center floor and lasting until you leave for home, you feel warm. There is indeed a sense of community here. No one can take that away.
This is why I’m proud to be a part of this. I’m proud to be someone who does what I do. Personal life aside, people can poke fun at what I do. Nothing else matters except those I’ve seen grow as people after each convention. They matter. I would gladly do what it takes to make sure that they have a great time. We would love casual event-goers and regulars alike to always have fun. This incident is not what this convention scene will ever be about.
The convention scene is about coming together as a community to provide support in times like these.
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All this has been happening on Facebook but for those who haven’t seen or heard yet, my car was set on fire while I was attending Anime Los Angeles. My car was specifically targeted and attacked by an obsessed stalker. After getting many encouraging words to set up a gofund me, I set one up. Please do not feel obligated to donate, but if you can, sharing it will be incredibly helpful. Thank you so very much, I appreciate all the love and support I have received from the cosplay community and my friends and family during this terrible time. Thank you everyone, I am so very grateful to all of you. https://www.gofundme.com/car-set-on-fire-at-ala-by-obsessed-stalker?sharetype=teams&member=1488702&rcid=r01-154743872435-faddec2e11054fdf&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_m #gofundme #arson #alafire #ala2019 #cosplay #cosplaycommunity #victim #carsetonfire #psycho #fire #news #attack #carfire #destoyedcar #totaledcar #goodbyecar #goodbyeStarlink #Starlink #subaru #subaruoutback
We ask you to donate, or at least share the donation pools.
Link to the GoFundMe campaign: Car Set on Fire during ALA
Link to the PayPal donation pool: ALA 2019 Car Fire
See also: Dr. Disrespect News Article