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Local Bookstore Recovering After Apparent Arson Attack Linked to Break-In

Fliers found at the scene appear to connect the incident to a break-in at a home on the same night.

Front view of the Iliad Bookshop, its door visibly burnt and burnt books and other objects in the foreground.
Iliad Bookshop. (SOURCE: Sean Beckner-Carmitchel)

On November 3 around 11 PM, a fire broke out in North Hollywood at the entrance of the Iliad Bookshop. A collection of free books appears to have been set ablaze, causing damage to the exterior of the building.

There were no injuries reported, and the store’s cats, Apollo and Zeus, are “on vacation at the owner’s house and enjoying the experience,” according to a store employee.

The owner alleges he found several notes referencing the fire, all taped to the exterior of the building. Among a variety of other seemingly unrelated references, those notes refer to a Los Angeles home that was the location of a break-in event later that same night. Fliers similar in content and visual appearance were found at the scene of the break-in.

The Los Angeles Fire Department received a 911 call at 11:21 PM and extinguished the fire outside the store. After the arrival of Dan Weinstein, the owner of the store, LAFD provided fans to exhaust smoke from the building. LAFD responders left at 12:45 AM November 4. An LAFD spokesperson stated that the specific cause of the fire remains undetermined. 

Weinstein, who alleges arson, has shown Knock LA notes that he says had been taped to the exterior of the building when he arrived at the scene of the fire. LAFD later told Knock LA that there was “no evidence regarding hate literature,” even though Knock LA had not previously mentioned the fliers.

The burnt door of the Iliad Bookshop in the foreground with part of its mural art visible in the background.
The Iliad Bookshop Mural. (SOURCE: Sean Beckner-Carmitchel)

The Iliad Bookshop sells used and new books, serving both local residents and customers from across the greater Los Angeles area. Named after the epic poem about the Trojan War composed by Homer, it moved from its location next to North Hollywood’s Odyssey Video to its current location on Cahuenga Boulevard in 2006. English artist Paul Dilworth painted a mural near the entrance, which was partially damaged by the fire.

Weinstein seemed overall optimistic but also concerned about the fate of his business. “The thing about bookstores is they absorb smells,” he said. He showed concern for some of his inventory that was stored close to the entrance, saying: “My fear is nobody wants a book that smells. People don’t even want used books because the previous owner smokes cigarettes. If it was too smoky, I probably would’ve had a going-out-of-business sale.“

The inside of the Iliad Bookshop with shelves lining the walls, a customer and a ladder in the background, and a child exploring the store.
Iliad Bookshop one day after the fire. (SOURCE: Sean Beckner-Carmitchel)

On November 4, the shop was open for what Weinstein called a “trial run.” A very slight smell of smoke was noticeable only near the entrance of the store. Customers were searching for books across the store, many asking employees questions about the fire.

“Normally we put free books outside our door and off to the side,” said Weinstein. On the night of the fire, “somebody had piled them all up in front of the door and then torched them.” Moving forward, he said, the store will continue to put out free books, “but we’re not going to leave them out at night anymore.” The owner also stated he was not sure if he was going to file an insurance claim, because his premiums were already high.

Weinstein indicated to Knock LA that the fliers seemed to have been intentionally posted only on the walls of the bookstore the night of the fire. “They had those posted all over our building. None of the neighbors’ fences or buildings, just ours. We feel that was their statement.” The note itself doesn’t seem to have any coherent message or ideology. It includes references to the Indigenous People’s sovereignty movement; Christopher Dorner; Mobuto Sese Seko, a former dictator of Zaire (present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo); a DJ Khaled music video; South Africa; and the phrase “every man for himself,” written in French. 

The night of the fire, a break-in took place at an address also mentioned on the fliers. Fliers referencing similar themes as the fliers taped to the bookstore appeared near the home. Both a letter and other physical evidence found at the scene of the break-in allude to the documented murder of a teenager in 2020. The murder was tied to a “doomsday cult” based in the Southwestern United States and Southern California. In its wake, several mutilated bodies were discovered in Idaho.

“This incident is absolutely being investigated,” an LAPD public information officer said, referring to the fire. LAPD agreed to direct Knock LA to a watch commander overseeing the division responsible for the investigation of the break-in but did not follow up. Knock LA attempted to contact detectives assigned to the break-in but were unable to reach them in time for this developing story.

The owner of the Iliad Bookshop has set up a GoFundMe raising funds for “repair costs and a mural artist.” Originally asking for $5,000, more than $30,000 in funds have been raised at the time of publication. One donor who contributed $25 attached a message expressing their appreciation for the bookstore: “Sending love & strength as you rebuild. The Iliad has always been a safe space for me and I hope it continues to be so for many other book lovers & of course, the shop kitties!”

Weinstein says he feels violated by the experience: “I don’t know why I was a target, maybe because I was a soft target and they were trying to get their word out.” As of now, the Iliad plans to remain open.